CD Reviews

CD REVIEWS

  • ARTIST: JACKIE MORRIS

    TITLE: CAN’T FIX CRAZY

    LABEL: BUTTON BOX RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: MARCH, 2014

    By Carl Gage

    Jackie Morris - Cant Fix CrazyOn this, her fourth album, Jackie Morris demonstrates the maturation of her craft in every way. Her delivery has developed beautifully and the songs are skillfully formulated, with pleasing melodies, spot-on backup, excellent arrangements and outstanding production.

    Opening with her first-rate whistling on Come and Gone, a sweet tribute to musician friends that have departed, she establishes that ability as a legitimate instrument. It is employed as well on North Hampton Road, a haunting love-gone-wrong song.

    The harmonies provided by Jim St. Ours, Cinder Jean and Rebecca Troon are subtle, well-balanced and complementary, adding greatly to the listenability of the seven tunes where they’re used.

    The instrumentation is top-notch, with accomplished multi-instrumentalist David West once again supplying a myriad of support on guitar, banjo, mandolin, dobro and bass. John O’Kennedy contributes some nice guitar work, subtly complementing four of the prettiest songs. Other contributors include Lorenzo Martinez on percussion, David Piltch on upright bass, Alastair Greene on resonator guitar and the no-less-than-amazing Gabe Witcher on fiddle, adding a gorgeous melodic overtone to several of the ballads.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: STREETS CRACKED

    ARTIST: JEFF GOLD

    LABEL: WINDYAPPLE RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 18, 2014

    The Power of Critical Thinking:

    By Ross Altman

    Jeff Gold  - Streets CrackedAs a freshman at UCLA in 1965 I had the good fortune to study American History with Professor Donald Meyer, author of the new book and now modern classic The Positive Thinkers, an analytic survey of the predecessors to Norman Vincent Peale’s bestseller The Power of Positive Thinking. He demonstrated that the sources of Peale’s panaceas ran deep in our culture, from popular religious figures like Mary Baker Eddy to politicians like Ronald Reagan, from 19th Century snake oil salesman to medicine show entertainers to modern TV preacher/hucksters like Jim and Tammy Faye Baker. Dr. Meyer counseled a wry skepticism towards such gospels of wealth and materialism disguised as Christian values and made an alternative case for the Power of Critical Thinking to combat its promise of a one-dimensional view of individual success with counter-cultural values like community, spiritual fulfillment and the good life.

     

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: KNEE DEEP IN HEAVEN (PO KOLANA W NIEBIE)

    ARTIST: JANUSZ PRUSINOWSKI TRIO

    LABEL: SŁUCHAJ UCHEM/ORIENTE MUSIK (4025781210628)

    RELEASE DATE: 2013

    By Suza Szewiola

    Knee-deep in HeavenI’ve been spending a lot of time in heaven lately. Admittedly, it is not through any good deeds of mine. My divine adventures must be credited to the Janusz Prusinowski Trio.

    Fully coming into my consciousness during the California leg of their U.S. tour this past October, I’ve become enthralled with the Prusinowski Trio’s music: a beguiling interpretation of traditional Polish melody and song which—while sincerely connected to the roots established by village masters—blooms with an originality, intensity and beauty that is increasingly rare in the burgeoning realm of contemporary “world music” releases.

    In concert, the Trio sweep the audience into an intense world of sounds—melody, beat, drone—which create a range of visceral sensations ranging from unbridled joy to the inexplicably bittersweet. This is accomplished not only by the music, but by the excellent musicians themselves whose genuine and deeply felt expression of the music is particularly evident live.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: ON THE OFF BEAT

    ARTIST: LIZ CARROLL

    LABEL: SELF

    DATE: 2013

    By Kevin Carr

    Liz Carroll - On the Off BeatLiz Carroll is a national treasure (for several nations!) - a fiddler of unparalleled skill with a palette of emotions in her playing that could “make the rocks weep, charm the birds out of the sky, and make the raging waters dance.” This new recording is comprised of all original tunes, with one exception - the Yellow Tinker, and that played with such fire and originality that it is hard not to think of it as Liz' own. Each generation of Irish fiddlers has a few players who are so deeply rooted in the tradition that they can write tunes, and incorporate influences that enrich rather than dilute the great stream of Irish music. Liz is one of those. We can hear the echoes of her appreciation for other types of music - Balkan in the Fruit and Snoot and Balkin' Balkan, old-time on Barbara Streisand's Trip to the Saginaw and Fish ON, Nordic in Tinsel, and even swing in The Wolf.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: RUN BOY RUN

    TITLE: SO SANG THE WHIPPOORWILL

    LABEL: SELF-RELEASED

    DATE: MARCH 19, 2013

    By Roland Sturm

    Run Boy Run - So Sang the WhippoorwillRun Boy Run is an exciting young band from Tucson, Arizona, who last year released its first full length CD So Sang the Whippoorwill. The album name is inspired by the Mexican Whippoorwill, a nocturnal "nightjar" bird found in Tucson and the southwestern US.

    Run Boy Run was formed in 2009 and won the band contest at Pickin’ in the Pines a few weeks later. In 2012, they played on stage at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival as band contest winners in 2012. Since then, they have been featured twice on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion who said about them: “Hot instruments and beautiful, sweet harmony singing. That's all you need in the world today.”

    The core of the band is two pairs of siblings. Brother and sister, Matt (fiddle, guitar) and Grace Rolland (cello, vocals), were raised with bow and rosin on every bedside table. Sisters, Bekah (fiddle, vocals, guitar) and Jen Sandoval (mandolin, vocals), grew up at Bluegrass festivals of Arizona. Jesse Allen (bass) was brought up on opera and western swing and grew to love the natural fusion inherent in American music. All members of the band are songwriters and penned at least one of the original songs on the album.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: O LOVE

    ARTIST: ERNEST TROOST

    LABEL: TRAVELIN’ SHOES RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: MARCH 25, 2014

    By Susie Glaze

    Ernest Troost o loveSomewhere on the road between 2009’s Resurrection Blues and 2014’s O Love, Ernest Troost stumbled on something that slowed him in his tracks: a great live concert in early 2011 and its great live recording from McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California, ostensibly the “ground zero” location of Troost’s “epiphany” (as he calls it) and subsequent evolution to become the remarkable and award-winning folk/blues songwriter that he is today.

    That live concert CD, Ernest Troost – Live at McCabe’s” (reviewed by this writer in July 2011 on FolkWorks here) was the fertile beginning of life for a few of the songs on this wonderful new studio release, O Love. The title track, along with songs Close,Bitter Wind, The Last Lullaby and Storm Comin’ were all familiar to me as I had enjoyed them so much in their live incarnations. These songs along with the newer ones have made another fascinating step on his road of epiphanies. They grow and evolve into a rowdy and, in some cases, raucous mood. He orchestrates many of his songs with electric guitars, percussion, pump organ and electric bass, producing a full-band sound that brings new and exciting epiphanies to the listener as well.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: WHEN MARIGOLDS SING: NEVENKA VOLUME 4

    ARTIST: NEVENKA

    LABEL: SELF

    RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY, 2014

    By Anthony Shay

    NEVENKA Marigold CD coverThe roots of this outstanding album lie in the 1950s when those of us then alive and in our late teens and 20s attended hootenannies with Pete Seeger, Sam Hinton and others—folk was in the air. At the same time, Tanec of Macedonia and Kolo of Serbia toured the United States in 1956 giving us a taste of the musical and choreographic wonders the Balkan nations could provide, and at the same time the appearance of the Monitor albums featuring Lado, the Croatian State Ensemble of Folk Dances and Songs, and the Philip Koutev Choir all combined to create a heady time for young Americans who had never heard these sounds before. The first attempts to recreate those songs and dances resulted in the formation of a number of ensembles in the United States, largely peopled with young non-native Anglo Americans eager and thirsty for this activity. I remember several attempts to replicate Lado’s signature arrangement of Ladarke; we spent hours attempting to sing in that vocal styling that Lado so masterfully performed.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: CE MONDE ICI-BAS

    ARTIST: DE TEMPS ANTAN

    LABEL: SELF

    RELEASE DATE: SEPT 19, 2013

    By Anya Sturm

    DeTempsAntan-cd-175De Temps Antan, an energetic trio from Quebec, just released their third CD, which is entitled Ce Monde Ici-Bas. I love their first two CDs, have had their first since it came out in 2008, and have listened to those CD’s countless times. I have been looking forward to their latest release. In the age of the Internet, I could get it onto my computer the very day the band released it in Quebec. I was not disappointed; the last CD (or set of MP3s if you buy them electronically) is as good as the others and I like all three CDs equally well.

    De Temps Antan are Éric BeaudryAndré Brunet and Pierre-Luc Dupuis who have been exploring traditional tunes from Quebec’s musical past and performing together since 2003. All three sing (in French) and the instrumentation includes fiddle, accordion, harmonica, guitar, bouzouki and a number of other instruments. Many of the vocal tunes are in a call-and-response style. As they explain, this is typical of songs at parties where one person will sing a verse, and the others will sing the last phrase, and the refrain. There are a number of those examples on the CD.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: WE’RE NOT LOST

    ARTIST: THE SHOW PONIES

    LABEL: SHOW PONY PUBLISHING

    RELEASE DATE: 2013

    By Jackie Morris

    Show-Ponies-Were-Not-Lost-175When an album is financed entirely by crowdsourcing – as is We’re Not Lost, the newest album by The Show Ponies -- one thing should be apparent: this rootsy, folk-rock group is the real deal, with immediate, widespread appeal.

    So immediately appealing, in fact, that they completed this CD within a year of finishing their last album, Here We Are! So tight and dynamic – perfectly harnessing youthful raw energy with polished musicianship – that it’s hard to believe this band has only been together since 2011.

    Featuring all-original songs, The Show Ponies have literally galloped into the Americana indie arena with a fast-paced sound, evoking overtones of bluegrass and old time country music, and adding a dynamic, percussive edge. Led by songwriting collaborators Andi Carder (lead vocals and guitar) and Clayton Chaney (lead vocals and bass), the five Ponies also include three classically-trained musicians.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: TRIO

    ARTIST: MOLLY’S REVENGE

    LABEL: MOLRI MUSIC

    RELEASE DATE: 2013

    By Jackie Morris

    mollysrevenge-175To paraphrase an old ad, you don’t have to be Irish… or Scottish… to love Celtic music. But if you are among the many who do, then you probably already know: it doesn’t get much better than Molly’s Revenge. With ten widely acclaimed albums already to their credit, the acoustic band has been playing to enthusiastic crowds since 2000, appearing at major folk festivals across the country and around the world.

    But their new 11th album, Trio, has two notable differences: First, as the title implies, there are just three of the core members here, not the former four or five. And second, this collection is entirely instrumental.

    The result, I should say from the outset, is no less dynamic, exciting, complex and engaging than any of their earlier recordings. In some ways, in fact, the “less is more” principle is at work here, in that you can better hear the musical nuances of each artist. And what amazing artists they are! David Brewer brings his infectious energy and unbridled passion to bear on the highland bagpipes, whistles, and bodhran.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: CLOSE TO HOME

    ARTIST: VAL MINDEL & EMILY MILLER

    LABEL: YODEL-AY-HEE

    RELEASE DATE: 2013

    By Jonathan Shifflett

    close-to-home175This past summer, mother and daughter singing duo, Val Mindel and Emily Miller, released their second album of early Country music, Close to Home. Mindel and Miller along with Jesse Milnes, fingerpicking extraordinaire and husband to Miller, explore the tight harmonies of the brother duets, the canonic lines of Southern gospel music and the blue note slides of early Bluegrass harmonies paying tribute to the Carter family, Roger Miller, Hank Williams and the Delmore Brothers. Behind each influence and perfectly executed style, however, are poignant memories of their family history, offering the only possible explanation for how such old songs can sound so contemporary and alive.

    Both Mindel and her daughter have traveled all over the world performing and educating on early Country harmony singing. Apart from their work together as educators and performers, each has a finger in various Old Time pies. Miller and Milnes play with their Country band the Sweetback Sisters and Mindel plays around the country with different groups such as the California based group, Any Old Time. However, it is in this family setting that the nuances of many years of making music together can be heard.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: NOCTAMBULE: TRAVEL IN THE SHADOWS

    ARTIST: MARLA FIBISH and BRUCE VICTOR

    LABEL: NOCTAMBULE MUSIC

    RELEASE DATE: April 2013

    By Kevin Carr

    Noctambule - Travel in the Shadow - Marla Fibish and Bruce VictorA mood is much more than a just a feeling. In its richest sense it signifies a gateway to a different world with its own scents and hues; its own vistas, characters, and possibilities. This is an album that creates that kind of mood. Noctambule draws us into a world of night journeys, of shadows and sadness, of deep truths and deep feelings, of beauties unseen in daylight, of whispers and dreams, of terror, loss and redemption. Most of the songs here are musical settings of poetry by Robert Service, Theodore Roethke, Pablo Neruda, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. The arrangements have the kind of genius that reflects lives lived fully, souls not unscathed, but with glittering musical imaginations grounded in joyful glorious experience. The playing is simply beautiful, and the interplay between Bruce Victor's moving, deft yet muscular guitar playing and Marla Fibish's always magic mandolin reminds me of watching two strong dancers moving together, creating so much more than the sum of the parts.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: THE SPEYSIDE SESSIONS

    ARTIST: ARTISTS FROM THE SCOTtish highlands

    LABEL: Self Produced

    RELEASE DATE: 2012

    By Linda Dewar

    Speyside_SessionsIn the Highlands of Scotland, the old Céilidh tradition is still very much alive and well. Most towns and villages have a somewhat flexible group of accomplished players and singers who get together regularly in a pub or someone’s home and make music until the sun comes up or the beer runs out. And whenever friends gather for any occasion it’s rightly assumed that music will happen at some point during the festivities.

    Last winter a group of far-flung friends led by actor Kevin McKidd (Brave, Grey’s Anatomy, Rome, Trainspotting) and best friend James D. Reid got together to play some tunes and sing a few songs in a spacious house beside the river Spey (hence the name). Old friends and new were invited to play and sing, and at the end of a week they’d recorded over two dozen traditional Scottish folk songs.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: SETTING OUT TO SEA

    ARTIST: THE ONLIES

    LABEL: SELF

    RELEASE DATE: 2013

    By Anya Sturm

    THE ONLIES - Setting Out to SeaThe Onlies are a group of three teenage musicians from Seattle. They just released their first recording, Setting Out to Sea, which is an enjoyable mix of traditional fiddle tunes and their own compositions (including both instrumentals and songs). Traditional tunes are from Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton, Quebec, and America and those styles are reflected in their own compositions, while their songs have similarities to early Nickel Creek. The band members are Sami Braman, Riley Calcagno, and Leo Shannon, who are sophomores in high school and have played together for most of their lives.

    The Onlies have performed a lot of gigs recently, including a tour of the West Coast last month. The tour started with a house concert in Portland, Oregon; then in California: Rio Dell; Berkeley; Cottage Grove and a contra dance in Palo Alto. While in California, the three of them spent a week at Alasdair Fraser’s Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling Camp in Santa Cruz. Unusual for many bands, but a really excellent training ground for traditional musicians, The Onlies regularly play square dances in the Seattle area.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: WORDS LIKE YOURS

    ARTIST: LILY HENLEY

    LABEL: SELF

    RELEASE DATE: 2013

    By Jonathan Shifflett

    Lily Henley Words Like YoursLily Henley's EP Words Like Yours is soothing, frenzied, sacred and profane all at once. Electrically imagined but acoustically delivered, one could call it a fusion of Sephardic Ladino melodies and Scotch-Irish fiddling. More accurately stated - it is an expression of a young woman straddling her ancestral cultures, spontaneously manipulating her inborn musical impulses.

    Hailing from New York City, the New England Conservatory graduate developed her Scottish fiddling influences in the Boston string band. Following a transitional period, she moved to Tel Aviv where she met Omer Avital, a renowned jazz bassist who had long been drawing inspiration from popular Israeli folk tunes. Henley was moved by how Avital used his Western musical training to elaborate on popular Israeli folk tradition and it wasn't long before she envisioned how the Ladino songs she knew as a child could be coupled with her Celtic and Americana upbringings.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: DANNY KALB AND FRIENDS

    TITLE: MOVING IN BLUE

    LABEL: SOJOURN RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 2012

    By Dennis Roger Reed

    Danny_Kalb_and_FriendsDanny Kalb was one of the founders of the Blues Project, a band that referenced blues, jazz, rock, country and “world” music. Al Kooper and Richard Greene were among his bandmates. They peaked early, finding the first split in 1967, but regrouping under the same or similar names throughout the next few years. With member changes from the very first, they eventually spin off/evolve into a group called both Seatrain and Sea Train, and Kalb bowed out to follow his more blues based direction.

    The Blues Project allowed Kalb to stretch out on both acoustic and electric guitar, something he still does 50 years on. Following a stroke a few years ago, Kalb regained his health and moved deeply into music than ever. Moving in Blue represents a recent project supplemented with recordings going back into the mid-1990s, with enough tunes to fill out two full CDs. Kalb sings and plays both electric and acoustic guitar. His work is notable not only for its authenticity with the older blues numbers, but also his reckless abandon on the electric guitar. His guitar work is masterful. On electric, his solos rarely go where they are “supposed to go.” His acoustic playing is sensitive where needed, and driven where needed. Kalb contributes a few songs, but a number of blues classics are re-invented.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: IF IT AIN’T HERE WHEN I GET BACK

    ARTIST: BRUCE MOLSKY

    LABEL: TREE FROG MUSIC

    RELEASE DATE: 2013

    By Sylvia Toor Cumming

    Bruce Molsky - IF IT AINT HERE WHEN I GET BACKI am a die-hard Bruce Molsky fan and have a true jones for his fiddling. For him to do wrong, he would have to do something really weird, like an Alvin-and-the-Chipmunks-style Hawaiian slack-key klezmer album. Fortunately, he’s not done that.

    If It Ain’t Here When I Get Back is an album of what Bruce Molsky does best: bare-bones simple American folk, with a solo Bruce playing fiddle, banjo, and guitar and occasionally singing. It’s brave music. A musician’s mettle is proven in solo work, and Molsky proves he’s a pro at deceptive simplicity. Not an out-of-tune note, not a missed chord, and acoustically true.

    The music is unpretentious and gorgeous, and it satisfies, in the truest sense of the word, that craving for honesty that much popular music lacks. It sounds as though he sat down one afternoon on your front porch and gave you a solo concert.

    Molsky starts the album with Wreck Of the Dandenong, an Australian shipwreck tune sung to a fiddle accompaniment.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: ROOM ENOUGH FOR ALL

    ARTIST: BATTLEFIELD BAND

    LABEL: TEMPLE RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: April 8 2013

    By Andy Doerr

    Battlefield Band - Room Enough for AllThe Battlefield Band recently played on my show the Roadtunes Sessions on KCSB FM 91.9 at UC Santa Barbara and by happy coincidence soon after I was asked to write this, my first ever, review.

    The Battlefield Band has a storied history beginning in 1969 and counts as one of the bands that, along with the Tannahill Weavers in Scotland and bands like The Bothy Band and Planxty in Ireland, brought a spirit of innovation to traditional music and thereby brought this regional folk music to a much broader audience. Their latest release, Room Enough for All, continues in that spirit and the current lineup of Michael Katz, Alasdair White, Ewen Henderson, and Sean O’Donnell continue the band’s longstanding tradition of moving “forward with Scotland’s past.”

    The recording gets off to a rousing start with Sean singing Bagpipe Music a song penned by Irish poet Louis MacNeice in the 1930s, that at first reminded me of a nonsense song like Bedlam Boys covered by Old Blind Dogs among others, but is in fact about, as MacNeice himself stated, the “cultural decline of the highlands” and the attendant collision between folk culture and the spread of urban culture into the rural north. Like the song In Contempt by Aaron Kramer, also on this record, but very different in presentation, Bagpipe Music takes its place in the long line of Scottish activist songs, that transcend the local and give voice to the universal struggle for justice and dignity as the times are inexorably a changin’

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: KILBOURN

    ARTIST: RUN DOWNHILL

    LABEL: RUN DOWNHILL MUSIC

    RELEASE DATE: 2013

    By Jackie Morris

    Run Downhill Kilbourn coverA creative collaboration in the fullest sense of the word, Run Downhill’s second release – Kilbourn - is a unique 5-song video EP. Composed by T.J. Troy, the songs combine incredibly dynamic, rootsy, country rockers (as well as a slow-and-dreamy instrumental) with the words of storyteller/lyricist John Castlerock. There is also a video that mixes live footage of the band with a subtly animated, campy “comic book” based on Castlerock’s story, The Carousel Couple.

    To say this EP is one of kind is an understatement.

    The five songs are somewhat eclectic – each a hybrid of various genres – from classic country stylings to contemporary indie rock to a lyrical, modern instrumental. But most are punctuated by captivating, upbeat rhythms and lush, tight harmonies. Of course, the engaging rhythms are not surprising, given that composer T.J. Troy is a first-class, professional drummer. On another level, however, the EP is also informed by Castlerock’s storyline in the comic book – a tragic romantic melodrama set in the Old West. Castlerock’s lyrics are a perfect match for Troy’s rhythms, utilizing unusual rhyme schemes and interesting phrasing.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: LATE LAST SUMMER:
    A COLLECTION OF ORIGINAL WALTZES

    A Father and Daughter collaboration

    ARTIST: JUDY HYMAN AND DICK HYMAN

    LABEL: LEFT EAR MUSIC (641444108725)

    RELEASE DATE: 2012

    By Kevin Carr

    Late_Last_SummaryWhen someone warms me that a film or song deals with fathers and daughters I usually steer clear. Too emotional for me, given my perhaps overly sentimental connection to my offspring. But I plunged ahead with this album, trusting Judy Hyman (fiddler in the alt-rock/folk band the Horseflies) to leaven sentiment with her usual depth, edgy intelligence and clear musicality. She and her father rewarded my faith richly. This recording is at once sweet, moody, evocative, exciting, and moving. A joyful listening experience, and one which gets the old waltz itch itching.

    Judy wrote these tunes largely for friends and family and they work well as a community of pieces, but also retain such individual character. This music isn't folk music, though the violin has the kind of accessible tone and rhythm of good fiddling. The interplay of fiddle and piano brings to my mind images of a couple dancing in the air, each relying on the other to support and inspire the art of the other.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: ENREGISTRÉ LIVE

    ARTIST: GENTICORUM

    LABEL: LES PRODUCTIONS DU MOULIN INC.

    RELEASE DATE: June 3, 2013

    By Devon Leger (Hearth Music)

    ENREGISTRÉ LIVEInvariably, the first thing listeners do after loading in Genticorum and pushing play is to double check the list of artists. That’s because it’s almost impossible to believe that the sound you are hearing comes from just three people. There must be at least several guest musicians, one assumes, to generate the foudroyant smash of melody that begins immediately and never stops. However, we can confirm that there are in fact just three young and virtuosic Québécois musicians who make up this award-winning group: Pascal Gemme; Yann Falquet; and Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand. As if to put any doubts to rest, Genticorum (pronounced “Jawn-ti-core-um”) is releasing Enregistré Live, a live album, and it’s obvious that even without a studio smokescreen Genticorum is still pure magic.

    Drawing from a wealth of deep traditional sources, Genticorum highlights the breadth of traditional French-Canadian music: from irresistible knee-bouncing reels to sinuous jigs; from rowdy call-and-response songs to haunting ballads with complex harmonies. Hidden in between the tracks of Enregistré Live (Recorded Live) one can catch snippets of their infectiously warm stage banter (in Québécois French), which is all part of the charm that has garnered them international fame and multiple awards.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: INFINITE DISTANCE

    ARTIST: BIG WIDE ROOM

    LABEL: SELF PRODUCED

    RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 2013

    By Larry Wines

    Big_Wide_Room_coverThey’re called Big Wide Room. When accomplished talents collaborate, and when they are individual artists with plenty of awards and recognitions, it’s worthy of taking notice. One had the “Album of the Decade” in the Los Angeles Times; another runs an acclaimed globe-spanning International Songwriters Retreat series; and the third got his start as music director of the New Christy Minstrels, before enjoying individual success.

    Together, they’ve just made an album, Infinite Distance. It’s something special. Some of these appealing, evocative songs will get used in film soundtracks.

    Plenty of CDs and even more artists court the elusive characterization of “eclectic” (however nebulous that turns out to be) in hopes of crossover airplay and broader exposure to listeners. It’s always a quest for music that resonates across divides of genre and generations; this album achieves that. It’s fresh, as young listeners like, and rich with well-developed melody lines and smart arrangements that more experienced listeners demand. Fans of nu-folk, acoustic renaissance music, and acoustic-based pop will find a gem here, and if radio supports it, music fans will go for it in a big way.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: BRIGHT SUNNY SOUTH

    ARTIST: SAM AMIDON

    LABEL: NONESUCH RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: MAY 22, 2013

    By Jonathan Shifflett

    amidon-bright-sunny-south-2013On his fourth studio album, urban folk musician Sam Amidon proves that when stripped bare, an old Southern ballad and a modern R&B hit are essentially one and the same. Expanding his repertory menu beyond the usual ballads and hymns to include renditions of popular Country and R&B hits, Bright Sunny South is perhaps his most mature album to date. Produced with longtime friend Thomas Bartlett (a.k.a. Doveman) and famed engineer, Jerry Boys (Vashti Bunyan, Martin Carthy), these eleven understated arrangements relate old stories to new ones and reveal how Amidon synthesizes the sounds of his urban environment through an organic process of folkloric mimicry.

    Bright Sunny South - contrary to what the title suggests - explores dark, introspective themes of war, death and unrequited love from poignant perspectives of lost and lonely individuals. The variety of songs and styles achieve cohesiveness through Amidon's claim that the album is an immensely personal one, covering what appears to be the entire spectrum of his musical influences, from Irish fiddle tunes and open fifth Sacred Harp harmonies to free jazz solos and outros. Choosing to revert to the sparseness of his first album, the songs on Bright Sunny South retain the purity and precision of a live performance while still showcasing Amidon's varied musical influences.

    Read more...  
  • Bulletin: Smithsonian Folkways
    Denies Security Leak

    Will Release Classic Banjo Tapes

    Reporting from Hong Kong: Ross Altman (Exclusive to FolkWorks)

    Classic Banjo from Smithsonian FolkwaysAn obscure provision of the Patriot Act has been triggered to force Smithsonian Folkways record company to release 30 major tracks from its secret tapes of vintage banjo music by some of America’s most notorious un-Americans—like Pete Seeger and his late half-brother Mike, who once described his banjo style as “non-violent,” which raised some red flags over at the NSA’s sister agency—the NCA—the National Clawhammer Association.

    It is no accident that Smithsonian Folkways—with its long history of promoting Marxist minstrels like Woody Guthrie (who condemned private property in his controversial “patriotic” song This Land Is Your Land), Leadbelly (he of the infamous Bourgeois Blues pointing out that Washington DC was racially segregated), and Mr. Seeger himself, who was an unfriendly witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955, when he hid behind the First Amendment and brazenly told them “You have no right to ask any American these questions”—is caught up in Washington’s latest scandal.

     

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: HONEY MAN

    ARTIST: HEY MAVIS

    LABEL: STELLADA MUSIC

    RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 2, 2013

    By Jackie Morris

    Honey Man - Hey MavisOne of the most dynamic recordings I’ve heard this year, Honey Man is the second release by Hey Mavis…featuring the marriage of Laurie Michelle Caner’s beautiful alto voice and banjo with husband Eddie Caner’s brilliant, virtuoso violin, fiddle and viola. The result, which they rightly call “Appalachian Americana,” is an intriguing variety of driving rhythms and softer songs – all featuring an exquisite interplay of fiddle and banjo, vocals and harmonies.

    I am not exaggerating when I say “exquisite.” Laurie Caner cut her musical teeth in the all-woman rootsy vocal trio, The Rhondas. Her vocal flexibility – and ability to craft authentic-sounding “backwoods” harmony – is immediately apparent. Eddie Caner has over 20 years of world-class performance under his bow, touring the globe, as soloist or sideman, with over 25 major artists, including Smokey Robinson, Page and Plant, and Luciano Pavarotti. But it is the musical interaction between the two of them – an almost visceral excitement – that makes Hey Mavis so special.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: NOTES FOR A NOVEL

    ARTIST: ROBERT MORGAN FISHER

    LABEL: IMPERATIVE

    RELEASE DATE: 2012

    By Wayne Slater-Lunsford

    Notes_for_a_Novel_-_Robert_Morgan_FisherIn second grade, Mrs. Duncan had me stand in the corner holding my ankles because I would not sit still. Even from the corner, I looked out between my knees at my classmates and got a few giggles and admiring comments on how red my face was and how my eyes bulged after a few minutes. I’d already done my handwriting practice, and the task of the moment was to entertain the rest of the room. In fact, Mrs. Duncan soon understood that creativity and a lack of challenging work were the source of my disruptive behavior. Mrs. House agreed to let me visit her fourth-grade class sometimes, and there I learned a technique that I still use when I think of it. The class would begin any new activity focused and attentive, but soon tended to drift into daydreaming, side conversations or mischief. The noise level would begin to rise, and the natural response would be to raise one’s voice to compete. Sometimes Mrs. House would do just that, but more often, she would LOWER her voice almost to a whisper.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: THE WINDING CLOCK

    ARTIST: ENDA SEERY

    LABEL: SELF PRODUCED

    RELEASE DATE: 2011

    By Zac Leger

    winding_clockEnda Seery is a young whistle and flute player from Co. Westmeath in Ireland. I had first heard Enda's playing through a few MP3 samples I had stumbled across online and later met Enda through Facebook and inquired about a copy of his CD for review. He kindly and quickly sent out an album and what a lovely album it is, too. Entitled The Winding Clock, I have to point out that this CD has one of the nicest graphic designs of any album I have seen recently, featuring several whistles protruding from an old style wind up watch (see the accompanying picture) and nicely drives home the idea of time as a common facet of Irish culture and traditional music. This is not an album of driving dance music or bawdy songs but rather a carefully crafted work by one of Ireland's finest young whistle players and tunesmiths.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: MY DUSTY ROAD

    ARTIST: WOODY GUTHRIE

    LABEL: ROUNDER RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: 2009

    By Ross Altman

    This essay is affectionately dedicated to Earl and Linda Thompson of West Covina, who gave me this beautiful boxed set, thinking it might grab my attention. Thank you!

    My_Dusty_RoadIn 2009, three years before the Woody Guthrie Centennial, Rounder Records released what Nora Guthrie describes as the definitive collection of Woody Guthrie songs in one collection; a handsomely mounted box set with an authoritative book length introduction to the artist and the tracks—one for nearly every year of his foreshortened life due to Huntington’s Disease. He lived to be 55, but for all intents and purposes his creative life lasted roughly 10 years, from the age of 27, when he was first recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress, to 38, when he was first admitted to Brooklyn State Hospital for the genetic illness that killed his mother.

    In those eleven years he wrote—at first estimated as 1000 songs—now more likely to have been three thousand. Many of them were only preserved as lyrics, which his daughter Nora has been putting in the hands of modern folk singers and rock bands to add music and bring to life as songs. If you multiply ten years by the number of days in a year, it roughly translates to Woody having averaged a song a day for his entire creative life—a number so astonishing as to beggar description and defy belief.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: WOODY AT 100: THE WOODY GUTHRIE CENTENNIAL COLLECTION

    ARTIST: WOODY GUTHRIE

    LABEL: Smithsonian Folkways

    RELEASE DATE: 2012

    ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF AMERICA’S GREATEST FOLK SINGER—1912-2012

    By Ross Altman

    WOODY_AT_100_-_THE_WOODY_GUTHRIE_CENTENNIAL_COLLECTIONSaturday, July 14, 2012 would have been Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday. To celebrate, something wonderful this way has come. This is the one you’ve been waiting for; the definitive monument to a diminutive giant—Smithsonian Folkways Centennial Collection of the Dust Bowl Balladeer’s recorded legacy drawing from both Library of Congress and Moses Asch’s Folkways Records, as well as other more obscure sources, with a hundred and fifty page coffee table-size book of photographs, paintings, illustrations, artifacts and manuscript excerpts of Woody Guthrie’s songs, prose writings and memorable epigrams such as, “Take it easy, but take it!”

    There are two recorded versions of his greatest song, This Land Is Your Land, demonstrating once and for all that it did not spring fully formed from the forehead of Zeus, but was written, composed, and revised, the way any master poet would be expected to work, until Woody arrived at his six gemlike verses and classic chorus—that is now a sacred text in the wide world of American folk music. To those who still regard this unofficial national anthem (just the way Woody would have wanted it) as having been censored the editors of this magnificent book-set (to call it a “boxed-set” understates their achievement) finally dispose of this shibboleth; Woody himself never recorded all six verses—and the Smithsonian did not release what they now refer to as the “standard recording” until 1997, long after these extra verses had already entered the folk canon through the inestimable efforts of both Arlo Guthrie (to whom Woody taught them as a child) and Pete Seeger. Pete (and Bruce Springsteen) sang every one of them on the National Mall during the inaugural ceremonies for Barack Obama in January 2009; if that be censorship, let me have more of it. What makes this collection a feast for the eye as well as the ear is that their book contains a full page photo reproduction of Woody’s original master recording—with the matrix number MA-114. Indeed, the size of the book almost perfectly matches the dimensions of an LP record sleeve—a beautiful touch!

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: BARN DANCE

    ARTIST: LITTLE BLACK TRAIN

    LABEL: NATIVE HOME MUSIC

    RELEASE DATE: April 2012

    By Jackie Morris

    Barn_DanceThere is live music, and then there is alive music. Barn Dance, the second album by Little Black Train, is both. Recorded in the tradition of early bluegrass, around a pair of stereo microphones – Barn Dance is old-timey, foot-stompin’, non-stop fun taken to new heights by a trio of veteran musicians.

    The trio consists of West Virginia native Stuart Mason, whose deep roots in traditional music are reflected in his authentic lead vocals, guitar, mandola and banjo; John Weed, whose old-time Irish fiddling style and harmony vocals carry the listener back through the centuries; and Kenny Blackwell, whose sometimes-bluesy, sometimes-jazzy, and always brilliant mandolin or guitar embroiders every melody, along with his harmony vocals.

    Individually, each band member is an exceptionally accomplished musician with a long list of credentials (among which, Mason and Weed have toured extensively with Molly’s Revenge; Blackwell has collaborated with the progressive fiddler Richard Greene and the legendary Laurel Canyon Ramblers). But together, they achieve something that transcends their individual talents…an energy that will truly take you for an exciting, creative ride!

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: CARRYING THE TUNE

    ARTIST: KEVIN CRAWFORD

    LABEL: BALLYO RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 2012

    By Zac Leger

    Kevin_Crawford_-_Carrying_the_TuneIn 1989, a young man from Birmingham, England moved to Ireland in order to concentrate more fully on his passion for Irish traditional music and most specifically, on the wooden flute. Instilled with a love and appreciation of Irish music and culture from his Irish-born parents, he quickly settled into the local session scene and a few short years later released his first solo CD. That young man was Kevin Crawford and the CD entitled simply, 'D' Flute Album, quickly became a classic of the Irish trad genre and required listening for Irish flute players worldwide. Crawford went on to join the band Moving Cloud, with whom he toured and released two albums. In 1997, he was asked to join the band Lunasa, replacing departing flute player Michael McGoldrick. Crawford's addition to the then up and coming supergroup marked a turning point in the band's sound and he has remained a driving force in the group's arrangements over 7 albums as well as their frontman in concert.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: MARLA FIBISH

    TITLE: MARLA FIBISH IRISH MANDOLIN BASICS: TUNES AND TECHNIQUES (DVD)

    LABEL: MARLA FIBISH MUSIC

    RELEASE DATE: 2012

    By Annette Siegel

    Marla_Fibish_Irish_Mandolin_BasicsSo you want to learn some Irish mandolin basics, but don’t know where to turn? Irish mandolin traditionalist Marla Fibish, the mandolinist behind the Three Mile Stone and more recently The Morning Star CDs has a great solution. She’s put together an instructional Irish mandolin DVD. Usually you would have venture out to find a local Irish session (still recommended) to pick up these tunes. (It would be helpful to have a basic mandolin/music theory background to understand some of the language she uses.) But lucky for us fledgling Irish mandy players, Marla has given us a leg up by being able to learn some Irish tunes in the comfort of our own home. And I don’t know about the rest of the mandolin learning population, but it sure helps me to learn when I have a visual aid.

    The DVD opens with Marla and her trademark Vintage Gibson A Mandolin (early 1920s) playing the tune Humors of Bandon and explaining how the mandolin has only been involved with Irish music in the last 40-50 years…and that it’s still finding its way. This sort of makes you feel like a pioneer. She also talks about how to develop your own “Irish” music ear by listening to different musicians and various instruments used in Irish music to develop a “feel” for this type of music.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: THE SWEET COLLEENS

    TITLE: CLOSER TO THE SKY

    LABEL: INDEPENDENT

    RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 30, 2012

    By Ariella Forstein

    SweetColleens_CloserToTheSky_COVERThe Minneapolis band, The Sweet Colleens, composed of five eccentric, humble and multi-talented musicians, has made rich music together since 1999. With each year and each album they evolve deeper into their unique fusion of Celtic-Cajun-Folk-Pop-Rock. Their 4th Studio release, Closer to the Sky, shares stories inspired by life experiences; gives listeners jammin’ grooves to move to and introspective ballads to be moved by.

    Whether it’s a fiddle riff, an accordion jam or a bagpipe proclamation, the guys somehow keep their sound old-timey, yet still innovative and fresh throughout the 11 tracks. The album opens energetically, as lead singer Jeremy Greenhouse sings California, about a timeless place with magical air and a magical girl, amidst which the accordion rocks a solo with harmonica compliments. Oh My My My (Look at that Girl) gets funky with its hoedown-meets-sexy-song vibe. The album then turns contemplative with Look at that Moon, as a mellow waltz.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: WHITE SWAN

    ARTIST: SUSIE GLAZE & THE HILONESOME BAND

    LABEL: HILONESOME MUSIC

    RELEASE DATE: MARCH 2013

    By Jackie Morris

    White_Swan_-_Susie_Glaze_HilonesomeOnce again, Susie Glaze & The Hilonesome Band have surpassed themselves. In their new, fourth album, White Swan, the celebrated newgrass group stretches the boundaries of their folk/bluegrass/mountain music roots to achieve a fusion of sound that is at once traditional and wonderfully fresh.

    Exceptional musicianship, years of playing together, and an almost instinctive familiarity with folk roots have allowed the band to create stunning timeless ballads that sound like traditionals...exciting blends of contemporary folk, Americana and mountain music…and Celtic-inspired originals. And running through all these eclectic influences like a clear mountain stream is the pure, clear voice of Susie Glaze.   In short, this is one gorgeous album – the “best yet” for a group that has long enjoyed critical acclaim.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: MEANWHILE IN AFGHANISTAN

    ARTIST: DAVID ROVICS

    LABEL: SELF PRODUCED

    RELEASE DATE: December 1st, 2012

    David Rovics for President

    By Ross Altman

    david_rovics_-_meanwhile_in_afghanistanIt took Israel six days to defeat a coalition of Egypt, Jordan and Syria in October of 1967 and guarantee its survival; it took Abraham Lincoln four years to defeat the Confederacy and end slavery once and for all; it took FDR and Truman four years to defeat Adolph Hitler and Nazism, the greatest evil the world has ever known.

    After more than ten years and counting, America under Bush and Obama are still bogged down in the graveyard of empires, the quagmire of Afghanistan, with another two years to go, and no one is asking why.

    Well, almost no one; David Rovics, a one-man musical occupation, places that question front and center in his new album, Meanwhile In Afghanistan—which speaks truth to power, both here and abroad.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: WALLOP THE SPOT

    ARTIST: PATRICK D'ARCY

    LABEL: SELF PRODUCED

    RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 15, 2012

    By Zac Leger

    patrick_darcy_-_wallop_the_spotOriginally from Dublin, Ireland and now resident in Los Angeles for a number of years, Patrick D'Arcy is a player of uilleann pipes, the complex, bellows-blown bagpipes native to Ireland. Initially starting his musical career on guitar and mandolin, D'Arcy was at one a time a member of the fledgling Irish Folk-Punk band Flogging Molly. However as his interest in a more traditional approach to the music gained momentum he left the group to focus more fully on his growing obsession: the uilleann pipes. And obsession it was. As he began to play the pipes more, D'Arcy (whose day job at the time was web design) launched UilleannObsession.com website, which quickly became a one stop shop for information on all things piping and, along with fellow Irish expat Gabriel McKeagney, founded the Southern California Uilleann Piper's Club. Today the club boasts dozens of members and the website has become one of the best resources for both beginning and experienced pipers searching for music, sets of pipes and piping history, anecdotes and lore.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: I JUST SEE YOU

    ARTIST: TRACY NEWMAN AND THE REINFORCEMENTS

    LABEL: KABEAUTY MUSIC

    RELEASE DATE: 2012

    By Jackie Morris

    Tracy_Newman_I_Just_See_YouIn her second, vintage-flavored, modern-folk album, I Just See You, award-winning singer-songwriter Tracy Newman reinforces what her first album suggested: She is one of the most talented story-song lyricists on the folk scene today.

    This is not to overlook the refreshingly upbeat musicality of her songs – the smooth-as-glass harmonies by the Reinforcements (Gene Lippmann and Rebecca Leigh) that recall the heyday of sweet harmony in the ‘30s and ‘40s; the touch of old-time country swing in some wonderful steel guitar, pedal steel, and dobro; or Newman’s own crystal-clear vocals that are so easy on the ears. It is just that what is really remarkable in these 11 original songs are the words. The closer you listen, the better they get.

    And you don’t have to “work at” listening, either. Newman has the casual, conversational style of a master wordsmith. Her phrasing never calls attention to itself; her images are never obscure. The words-and-melody all seem to flow effortlessly together. But oh, can these songs pack a punch! They are funny, engaging, touching, relatable, and insightful…some-times all at once.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: TEMPEST

    ARTIST: BOB DYLAN

    LABEL: COLUMBIA RECORDS

    RELEASED: SEPTEMBER 11, 2012

    Bob Dylan and the Great Tradition

    By Ross Altman

    Bob_Dylan_-_TempestBob Dylan has just released his 35th studio album, and it’s a corker. With a title that evokes Shakespeare’s final play, are his revels now ended too? Dylan denies this tight connection to his heart, of course, and makes much of the fact that Shakespeare’s play is called The Tempest, whereas his is just the single word. Be that as it may, if this is his swan song, it’s a beautiful way to go out. Not surprisingly, it evokes the blues as perhaps the primary color on his musical palette; it starts off with a train song—Duquesne Whistle—on its final run. Dylan’s great touring band—Tony Garnier, Donnie Herron, Charlie Sexton, Stu Kimball and David Hidalgo—sneaks up on you with a casual abandon, a lilting melody with soft chords, before suddenly hurtling round the bend with George G. Recelli’s drum roll to start the rock & roll journey south. Other than this framework it has little in common with Steve Goodman’s tale of the City of New Orleans also on its final run, since Dylan’s opening song (lyrics co-written with Robert Hunter) is an impassioned love song, like most, but importantly not all, of the songs on the album.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: BRIGHT LAND

    ARTIST: THE CROOKED JADES

    LABEL: JADE NOTE MUSIC

    RELEASE DATE: 2012

    By Jackie Morris

    Crooked_Jades_Bright_LandA mesmerizing mix of primal and “cutting edge” energy, The Crooked Jades’ latest CD, Bright Land, surpasses even their critically acclaimed past six albums – sounding as if it has come straight out of the soul of “some dark holler” in Appalachia. The fact that the band – featuring founders Jeff Kazor and Lisa Berman, along with Rose Sinclair, Karen Celia Heil, Charlie Rose, and other guest artists – began at a kitchen jam in San Francisco in 1994, reflects the serious talent at play here.

    Produced by Jeff Kazor, their new release is the result of a collaboration with the Kate Weare Dance Company. A boldly modern choreographer, Weare heard The Crooked Jades at a concert and was entranced by the hypnotic, haunting sound of their old-time music. She approached them with the project – to supply a musical backdrop for her troupe – and they accepted. That, in turn, led the band to reframe their repertoire…creating new arrangements to underscore the poetry, drama and mystery at the heart of each song. The result is a truly timeless recording – at once raw and sophisticated, primitive and experimental in its instrumentation, rhythms and phenomenal harmonies.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: BANJO DIARY: LESSONS FROM TRADITION

    ARTIST: STEPHEN WADE

    LABEL: SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS

    RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 11, 2012

    Stephen Wade Paints His Masterpiece

    By Ross Altman

    Banjo_DiaryIn May, 1979 a 26 year old musician in his hometown of Chicago opened a newly-minted one-man show with the intriguing title: Banjo Dancing, or The 48th Annual Squitters Mountain Song, Dance, Folklore Convention and Banjo Contest…and How I Lost. It was a farrago of traditional banjo tunes and songs, clogging and storytelling from Appalachia to Brooklyn. I happened to be teaching high school there at the time, where I had moved to become the next Steve Goodman or John Prine, and went to see it. It was the greatest night I have ever spent inside of a theatre—and the star, creator and just barely containable ball of energy on stage was Stephen Wade.

    Later that year he took the show to Washington, DC at the Arena Stage for a three-week run. Ten years later, when the show closed, Wade was standing on top of the record for the longest-running off-Broadway play in America. Over twenty years later and it is still one of the top five.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: EVIE LADIN BAND

    ARTIST: EVIE LADIN BAND

    LABEL: EVIL DIANE RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: 2012

    By Jackie Morris

    EVIE_LADIN_BANDYou don’t often hear words like “traditional,” and “authentic” paired with “innovative” and “unique,” but Evie Ladin has brought them together brilliantly in the self-titled, debut album of the Evie Ladin Band, and the result is truly a high point in new old-time music.

    If you are not already familiar with Evie Ladin’s music, don’t let the term “debut” fool you.  While the four multi-instrumental band members – Ladin, Keith Terry, Dina Maccabee, and Erik Pearson – have been playing together for three years, they are all seasoned professionals. And the polyrhythmic sound of Ladin’s clawhammer banjo, her clogging, and her beautifully modulated voice, have infused five previous albums with The Stairwell Sisters, as well as the 2010 release of her highly acclaimed solo album, Float Downstream. But in the 13 new old-timey, Appalachian-flavored tracks of Evie Ladin Band, Ladin surpasses herself.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: ROOM OF WONDERS

    ARTIST: JAYME STONE

    LABEL: SELF PRODUCED

    RELEASE DATE: 2010

    By Nick Smith

    Jayme_Stone_-_Room_of_WondersThis CD is made up of what can truly be considered “world music,” ranging from Irish reels to Norwegian polkas, with many detours along the way. The music is all dance music, or inspired by dance music, or inspired by the kind of music that a band would play at the end of a dance to let everyone know it was time to go home. One of the tunes is based on J. S. Bach’s arrangement of an old set of folk tunes. Other pieces are from Brazilian or Italian influences, and even a very strange Tunisian-based waltz. Each piece is worth listening to on its own, but the recording as a whole takes the listener on a quick tour to lands which might or might not exist outside the boundaries of this recording.

    In addition to the relatively common banjo, fiddle, guitar, the recording includes trumpet, trombone, drums and even a nyckelharpa.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: COWBOYS ON THE SKYLINE

    ARTIST: J. W. McCLURE with THADDEUS SPAE

    LABEL: THREE DAMP DUCK MUSIC

    RELEASE DATE: 2011

    By Jackie Morris

    JR_McClure_-_Cowboys_On_The_SkylineI recently “discovered” the already long discovered, multi-award-winning songwriter and humorist, J.W. McClure, when I was hosting a showcase at the 2011 FAR-West Folk Alliance Conference in Eugene, Oregon. From the minute I heard the first few measures of his popular new cat song, Blue, I knew I was hooked. And my McClure “addiction” has only gotten worse since then.

    McClure plays an irresistibly smooth and engaging blues guitar, seasoned with an old-time jazzy sound. Better still, in his third album, Cowboys on the Skyline, this rhythmic, acoustic styling is accentuated by the brilliant multi-instrumentalist, Thaddeus Spae. Spae brings a big 6-string guitarron – played as an upright jazz bass – to 12 of the 14 tracks. In addition, he adds a variety of lead guitar, harmonica, back-up vocals, trombone, banjo and tuba to the album. That’s right, tuba. As I am about to tell you, this album is big fun.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: STORY GIRL

    ARTIST: THE GOTHARD SISTERS

    LABEL: SELF PRODUCED

    RELEASE DATE: 2011

    By Zac Leger

    STORY_GIRL_-_GOTHARD_SISTERSThe Gothard Sisters are three siblings from Edmonds, WA who perform traditional and contemporary music and dance. Highly skilled musicians and dancers, Greta (25), Willow (23) and Solana (16) have been performing and recording together for much of their lives and this comes through strongly in their music and arranging. Their new album, Story Girl, features many of the ideas and pieces the girls have developed over the last few years of a rigorous touring schedule across the U.S and Canada. All three sisters trained from an early age in the violin and while trio string arrangements are a hallmark of their playing, they are all multi-instrumentalists and singers as well as champion Irish step dancers. Because they come from a background steeped in many influences, the new album doesn’t fall strictly into any one genre but instead features both Irish, Scottish, Americana and Classical ideas intertwined in a number of self-composed tunes along with a few fresh takes of older traditional material.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: NO OTHER ROAD

    ARTIST: LUCY BILLINGS

    LABEL: SASSY TIME RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 2011

    By Jackie Morris

    Lucy_Billing_-_No_Other_RoadSinger/songwriter Lucy Billings’ second folk/Americana CD, No Other Road, provides a wonderful combination of “shine” and substance. From the opening measure, the “shine” – emanating from Billings’ clear inviting voice and a stellar cast of studio musicians – makes the album an instant winner. But it is the substance – the melodic flow and refreshingly honest lyrics – that makes the album enduringly enjoyable. Laced with engaging personal stories, thought-provoking themes, instrumental nuances, and interesting chord progressions, No Other Road never loses its appeal, no matter how many times I listen to it.

    Released in January 2011, No Other Road was produced and engineered by multi-instrumentalist/producer, John Jennings (best known for his work with Mary Chapin Carpenter), and it boasts some exquisite arrangements. Jennings has brought together some of the top studio musicians in Americana music to play on these songs. In addition to his own acoustic and electric guitar, piano, bass, and percussion, and Billings’ acoustic guitar, the album features: .

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: LET THE STORM ROLL IN

    ARTIST: CLAUDIA NYGAARD

    LABEL: CATTLE PRODUCTIONS

    RELEASE DATE: 2011

    By Jackie Morris

    Claudi_Nygaard_-_Let_the_Storm_Roll_InWith her new second album, Let the Storm Roll In, Claudia Nygaard is enjoying one of the most richly deserved success stories on the folk/Americana scene today. After years of honing her craft – performing at over 150 fairs and festivals in 47 states and across Europe, and working as a full-time staff songwriter on Nashville’s Music Row – Nygaard has emerged as an award-winning singer-songwriter whose new album has swept the Americana, Roots, and Folk Charts (actually staying on the Folk Charts for three months now).

    Produced by Nygaard in 2011, Let The Storm Roll In provides an excellent showcase for her multiple talents and mastery of several styles. From quiet country/folk story-songs to old-time country roots…from upbeat love-and-heartache songs (delivered by self-described “torch singers in cowboy boots”) to social commentary…from personal ballads to laugh-out-loud humor, Claudia is a consummate storyteller. And her rich, warm voice is well suited for all these styles. 

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: CATCH THE SUNSET

    ARTIST: BARB RYMAN

    LABEL: RENEGADE

    RELEASE DATE: 2011

    By Jackie Morris

    catch_the_sunset_-_barb_rymanListening to Catch the Sunset, the sixth album of Minnesota singer-songwriter, Barb Ryman, I can’t help thinking she really has caught it….in all the ephemeral beauty, the simultaneous sadness and radiance, of every sunset since the dawn of time. This is one profoundly beautiful and beautifully profound CD.

    Catch the Sunset is primarily a collection of story songs in the folk tradition, and Barb Ryman is a consummate story-teller. Drawing inspiration from real life (often her own), her songs are laced with detail but never boring; never too long, and never overly dramatic – a quality that allows room for the listener to call up his or her own personal experiences. She sings them all in a high, pure voice that reminds me of the clarity I used to love in early Joan Baez recordings.

    From touching songs such as Soldier’s Daughter (about the loss of her father, a navy pilot, when she was four years old)...to incisive political songs like Nursery Rhymes, there is a stunning sincerity in her voice; an unflinching truthfulness and brave vulnerability that immediately command attention.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: THE LOST NOTEBOOKS OF HANK WILLIAMS

    ARTIST: VARIOUS

    LABEL: COLUMBIA MUSIC

    RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 4TH, 2011

    Dancing on Ol’ Hank’s Grave:

    Bocephus Steps on Papa’s Posthumous Album Release

    By Ross Altman

    hankwilliams_THE_LOST_NOTEBOOKSOctober 4, 2011; the much-anticipated release of The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams, spearheaded by Bob Dylan for Hank William’s estate, had to take a back seat today to more urgent news about Hank Williams, Jr. Bocephus crashed the party by getting booted off of Monday Night Football, where his sun-glasses tough guy persona has reigned supreme since 1989, due to his unfortunate comparing of President Obama to Adolph Hitler in an ESPN interview over the weekend.

    So instead of waking up to cheering news that major contemporary artists Alan Jackson, Merle Haggard, Sheryl Crow, Jack White, Levon Helm, Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell, Patty Loveless, Norah Jones, Lucinda Williams, and Bob Dylan had rescued a dozen of Hank Sr.’s lyrics that he had never had time to set to music, and created a masterpiece of a tribute album to the “Shakespeare of Country Music,” all of the attention on AOL’s Huffpost this morning went to his jackass son, who has never been shy about calling attention to himself. After all, as he put it in an old song, it’s a Family Tradition.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: SECRET VOICES

    ARTIST: ANONYMOUS 4

    LABEL: HARMONIA MUNDI

    RELEASE DATE: 2011

    By Michael Macheret

    Secret_Voices_-_Anonymous_4This year marks the 25th anniversary of the acapella group Anonymous 4. They are team of four singers specializing in, though not always limited to, medieval music. During that time they have released a number of recordings including two collections of music by Hildegard von Bingen, and have been recognized as among the foremost interpreters of the music of this period; but they have also ventured into American gospel and rural folksong (Gloryland with Darol Anger and Mike Marshall). Though they had considered retiring the team in 2004, they have continued touring and recording and they are far from wearing out their welcome. If you are not familiar with their work, their website www.anonymous4.com is well worth a visit. The latest release from Anonymous 4 “Secret Voices: Chant & Polyphony from the Las Huelgas Codex c.1300” is a collection of music from the Cistercian Abbey of Santa Maria la Real de Las Huelgas near Burgos in northern Spain.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: THE MORNING STAR

    ARTIST: MARLA FIBISH AND JIMMY CROWLEY

    LABEL: MARLA FIBISH MUSIC

    RELEASE DATE: 2011

    By Kevin Carr

    Morning_Star_-_Marla_Fibish__Jimmy_CrowleyDouble strung instruments have not been staples of Irish music for very long, perhaps only becoming popular since the late sixties and early seventies, spread by the likes of Johnny Moynihan, Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny and Alec Finn, but they have become emblematic of the resurgence and ensuing worldwide commercial success of traditional and folk music. Today, bouzoukis, mandolins, and octave mandolins, citterns, blarges, mandolas and mandocellos are found in folk groups across Europe and in the USA. Despite this success it is rare to find a recording that features only such instruments. Jimmy Crowley, Irish balladeer par excellence, and early adopter of the bouzouki, and Marla Fibish, San Francisco Bay Area based mandolin wonder, have released an album that is all double strung, all the time. And it is magnificent. Featuring the Gibson A model mandolin Marla was given by her grandfather, her mandola, and Crowley's bouzouki, mandocello, mandolin, and Dordán (a mighty bouzouki like creature with a deep and powerful bass), this recording captures the power, the rhythmic intensity, the heavenly harmonics and the sheer joy that flows from these instruments, when in the right hands. Marla and Jimmy are old friends, having toured and played together over the course of some years, and shows by this duo are always a delight.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: LIVE AT THE FREIGHT & SALVAGE

    ARTIST: SUSIE GLAZE & THE HILONESOME BAND

    LABEL: HILONESOME MUSIC

    RELEASE DATE: MARCH 2011

    By Dennis Roger Reed

    Susie_Glaze_Live_at_FSSusie Glaze & The Hilonesome Band and the venerable Berkeley venue the Freight and Salvage. Sounds like a good match, and this recording made in July of 2010 proves it.

    These folks are known for mixing folk, mountain music and bluegrass with just a smidgen of pop sheen. Susie and the band are high energy talented musicians who make great recordings, and as this recording shows, are also high energy talented live performers.

    The set list mixes some songs associated with Susie’s mentor Jean Ritchie, and also originals from band member Rob Carlson. Carlson plays lead guitar, resonator guitar and provides harmony vocals. Glaze plays guitar and mountain dulcimer. Husband Steve Rankin adds mandolin, guitar, harmony vocals and lead vocals on the set closing version of Steve Earle’s Pilgrim. Fred Saunders plays bass and adds harmonies, and Mark Indictor plays fiddle. Banjo player extraordinaire Bill Evans guests on two songs. This is one hot band.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: WESTERN COUNTRY

    ARTIST: CALEB KLAUDER

    LABEL: QUICKSILVER PRODUCTIONS

    RELEASE DATE: 2010

    By Jackie Morris

    Caleb_Klauder_Western_CountryIf this tangled, modern world has got you down and you yearn for the simpler, good ole’ days, tune into Caleb Klauder for the most authentic reincarnation of Traditional Country, Honky Tonk and Old Time music you’ve ever heard....and a guaranteed, high-energy pick-me-up.

    In the course of the past year, Klauder has given us two new CDs that sound as if they were recorded back in the days when albums were made of vinyl and recording artists didn’t have the luxury of overdubs and digital enhancements. In fact, both his albums - Western Country, released in Fall 2010 with his 6-piece country band, and Sud de la Louisiane, released in 2011 as part of the Foghorn Trio (see accompanying  review) - were recorded live in the studio. Rich with tight harmonies, honky tonk rhythm and twang, the result is visceral: both albums capture the foot-stompin’ excitement, raw vitality and spontaneous joy of a live band.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: SUD DE LA LOUISIANE

    ARTIST: THE FOGHORN TRIO

    LABEL: QUICKSILVER PRODUCTIONS

    RELEASE DATE: 2011

    By Jackie Morris

    Foghorn_Trio_Sud_dl_la_LouisianeFor a slice of bona-fide old-time Americana -- or, as they describe themselves, the kind of “ass-kickin redneck stringband music” you’d expect to hear on some front porch in Appalachia in the 1930s -- there is no better contemporary band than The Foghorn Trio. The Trio is an offshoot of The Foghorn Stringband, which has been together for ten years. Based in Portland, Oregon, with four albums to their credit, the up to 7-member band (depending on availability) has long been one of the brightest stars on the thriving Old Time Music Revival scene in the Northwest.

    The Foghorn Trio is a distillation of this stellar group, comprised of founding members Caleb Klauder and Stephen “Sammy” Lind, and the recently-added French Arcadian bassist, Nadine Landry. All three are accomplished multi-instrumentalists and excellent singers in their own right. And they show it off accordingly: Klauder on hard-driving mandolin, fiddle, guitar and vocals….Lind on high-octane fiddle, guitar, banjo and vocals….and Landry on guitar, upright bass, and vocals. The result is pure joy.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: BLAME SALLY

    TITLE: SPEEDING TICKET AND A VALENTINE

    LABEL: NINTH STREET OPUS

    RELEASE DATE: May 2011

    By Russ Paris

    SpeedingTicketAndAValentineBlame Sally is a band based in the San Francisco area. This quartet of talented women singer-songwriters came together in 2000, putting their individual careers on hold to form a group that is far more than the sum of the parts. They perform a passionate and melodic mix of acoustic folk-rock tinged Americana music with rock, Latin and even occasional Celtic flavors.

    Monica Pasqual (piano, keys, accordion, melodica, vocals), Renee Harcourt (guitar, bass, banjo, harmonica, vocals), Jeri Jones (guitar, bass, Dobro, mandolin, vocals) and Pamela Delgado (percussion, guitar, vocals) have found an infectious energy together, which combined with their great songs has led them to develop an ever-expanding and intensely devoted audience.

    It's rare that a studio album is able to capture the vitality and exuberance of a band that is best known for their dynamic live performances. Too often, the interaction between band and audience doesn't survive the transition to the starkness of the studio. Yet, after a very successful collaboration with Grammy-nominated producer Lee Townsend on their last studio CD, Night of 1000 Stars (2009), Blame Sally opted to self-produce this time, striving to capture the magnetic energy of their live performances on the CD. I'm happy to say that they have succeeded.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: ERNEST TROOST

    TITLE: ERNEST TROOST LIVE AT MCCABE'S

    LABEL: TRAVELIN' SHOES RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: July 2011

    By Susie Glaze

    Ernest_Troost_Live_at_McCabesThe luckiest fans of acoustic music on the night of January 7th, 2011 in Los Angeles were smack dab in the audience of McCabe's Guitar Shop for a concert from one of this country's landmark and pre-eminent songwriters of our generation, the great Ernest Troost. As an opener for Kenny Edwards in 2010, Ernest impressed, and this year yielded up a night unto himself, a very aptly deserved reward. Now in hand as Ernest Troost LIVE at McCabe's, this stellar new CD is the wonderful take-away from that evening's performances of Ernest's brilliant songwriting, amazing guitar work and fabulous accompanying players and singers.

    As I previously wrote in these pages, "2009 Kerrville New Folk Winner Ernest Troost's newest album, the aptly titled Resurrection Blues, is a brilliant new piece of songwriting art. Its thirteen Piedmont-blues influenced songs tell stories of passion, lost love and regret-filled lives at a cross-roads, looking for a modern-day answer to 'how did things ever get this far?' and 'when did the darkness fall?'

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: SOMETHING TO BELIEVE

    ARTIST: FREEBO

    LABEL: POPPABO MUSIC

    RELEASE DATE: 2011

    By Russ Paris

    Freebo_-_Something_to_BelieveFreebo is best recognized for the decade or more that he recorded and toured with Bonnie Raitt. In fact, Freebo is a genuine folk, rock and blues icon. For more than 30 years, Freebo has played bass and tuba on recordings and toured with some of the great artists of our time: Bonnie Raitt, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, Crosby Stills & Nash, Maria Muldaur, Ringo Starr, Michelle Shocked, Neil Young, Loudon Wainwright III, Dr. John, and many others. He has also appeared on Saturday Night Live, Midnight Special, Muppets Tonight, and in concert with the legendary Spinal Tap.

    When I first met Freebo back in 1997, he had just released his debut solo album, The End Of The Beginning, and was just learning to step into the spotlight as a headliner after decades as a consummate side- man. That CD featured appearances by many of his talented friends including Bonnie Raitt, Paul Barrere, Catfish Hodge, Albert Lee, Sam Clayton and others. That CD has a variety of styles and showed great promise for Freebo's future solo career including some clever song writing, good rock and pop sensibilities developed over decades of working with some of the best artists around, and fine production by Freebo and Michael Jochum.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: NO HIDING PLACE: OLD SONGS

    ARTIST: LARRY HANKS AND DEBORAH ROBINS

    LABEL: ZIPPETY WHIPPET MUSIC

    RELEASE DATE: 2010

    By Ross Altman

    No_Hiding_PlaceMarilyn Chambers did the X-Rated version; Charlie Rich did the R-Rated adaptation (When We Get Behind Closed Doors); but to enjoy the family friendly PG-Rated version come home to Larry Hanks and Deborah Robins’ new CD, No Hiding Place, an album of quintessential traditional and modern folk songs, including Green Door, a 1957 US hit by Jim Lowe (written by Bob Davie and Marvin J. Moore in 1956), and a hit in the UK as well by three different artists, which inspired the adult film Behind the Green Door.

    Sex sells, but one does not expect it to sell records by old-time singer Larry Hanks and his wife Deborah Robins. So let’s just say their tongue-in-cheek and sweetly wholesome version of a fun-song from the nifty fifties filled with double entendres (is it a bar or a bordello?) was not intended to raise my eyebrows. But raise them it did.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: FANCY THAT! BANJO ARTISTRY OF DAN LEVITT

    ARTIST: DAN LEVITT

    LABEL: SELF

    RELEASE DATE: January 2011

    By Jackie Morris

    Reprinted from the Songmakers Bard Chord with permission

    Fancy_ThatForget the banjo jokes. If you’ve ever heard him play live, you know: Dan Levitt can make a banjo sound like nothing you’ve ever heard before. And this gem of a CD captures it all. With his debut CD, Fancy That! Banjo Artistry Of Dan Levitt, “the man with the golden banjo” has produced an amazing treasure trove of beautiful music, both original and traditional. On some of the tracks – if you did not know what you were listening to – you might not even realize it was a banjo!

    Levitt achieves this sound with an instrument that is like nothing you’ve ever seen before, either.

    A master craftsman as well as a classically trained musician, Dan Levitt worked on this 5-string banjo – on and off – for 25 years. Completed in 2003, it contains approximately 300 pieces of inlay, 800 pieces of marquetry, and numerous intricate carvings. It is, in itself, an incredible work of art.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: RAFE AND CLELIA STEFANINI

    TITLE: NEVER SEEN THE LIKE...
    OLD TIME FIDDLE, BANJO,GUITAR TUNES AND SONGS

    LABEL: YODEL-AY-HEE RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 2009

    BY KELLY MARIE MARTIN

    rafe_s.jpg

    What is so wonderful about old time music now is that the generation of players who picked up fiddles and banjos and guitars in the 1960s and 1970s had kids. And man, are we lucky to be the beneficiaries of the stuff on which they were raised. Never Seen the Likeis an album of "old time fiddle, banjo, guitar tunes and songs" from fiddle/banjo legend Rafe Stefanini and daughter Clelia. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Joel Savoy, Cajun fiddler in the Red Stick Ramblers (son of Marc and Ann Savoy) at Studio Savoyfaire in Eunice, Louisiana and produced by Rafe and Clelia, this album is one great product of Dynasty and I'm not talking about the TV show. Jillian Johnson, at Work Agencies designed the artwork and took the photographs for the packaging.I love the cover photo of Clelia with the fiddle and Rafe a banjo and the inside cover shot with the twin fiddlers sitting.

    Read more...  
  • Title: All Wood and Doors

    Artists: James Lee Stanley and Cliff Eberhardt

    Label: Beachwood Recordings

    Release Date: 2011

    By Russ Paris

    All_Wood_and_DoorsAll Wood and Doors by James Lee Stanley and Cliff Eberhardt is one of those CDs that sounds both new and familiar at the same time, and for good reason.

    The origins for the new All Wood and Doors collection go back a couple of years to when a mutual friend introduced James Lee to John Densmore of the Doors. John commented that he enjoyed the All Wood And Stones collection that was released back in 2004 by James Lee Stanley and John Batdorf. Densmore offered to participate in the project if James Lee ever did the same type of folk treatment to the Doors songs.

    (All Wood and Stones is a collection of Rolling Stones songs that James Lee Stanley and John Batdorf lovingly created in an acoustic, guitar and harmony driven style. Imagine an early 1970s Crosby, Stills & Nash tackling the Rolling Stones catalog. The CD was well received and got great reviews.)

    Read more...  
  • Title: Backstage at the Resurrection

    Artist: James Lee Stanley

    Label: Beachwood Recordings

    Release Date: 2011

    By Russ Paris

    Live_at_the_ResurrectionJames Lee Stanley has been a staple of the Los Angeles area singer- songwriter scene for more than 40 years, releasing 25 albums since his self-titled debut album in 1973. In spite of the fact that his 1998 album Freelance Human Being was listed by Fi Magazine as one of the top 200 recordings of all time, he remains one of the great undiscovered talents in American pop music.

    By "undiscovered," I mostly mean that he hasn't sold quite as many albums as he'd like! For truly he has had a stellar career with early albums on both the RCA and MCA labels and later releases on his own Beachwood Recordings label which has also released albums by other well respected artists such as Laurence Juber, Hamilton Camp and Peter Tork.

    For those who have followed James Lee Stanley's career for any length of time, it is obvious that he continues to grow as an artist. His voice seems to get stronger with each release while his composition and arranging skills continue to advance. This has never been more true than with his most recent solo studio releases The Eternal Contradiction (2007) and New Traces of the Old Road (2008). I'm happy to say that his new CD, Backstage At The Resurrection (2011) continues this trend.

    Read more...  
  • The Music of Contra Dancing

    By  of Hearth Music 

    Originally published in No Depression

    Contra_Dancers_and_Musicians.jpg

    Contradances viewed from the stage.

    I've long thought that contra dance bands would make great performance bands. Actively blending popular traditions from Celtic to Cape Breton, old-time to bluegrass, with hints of Scandinavian and French- Canadian influences, contra dance bands should have laser precision and the ability to turn on a dime. Of course, the problem is that most contra dance bands are used to playing 15 minute long medleys of highly repetitive tunes, so some work has to be done to adapt a contra dance band to a concert stage. Here are three bands that have developed musical styles so tight and compelling that if they're not playing concert venues now, I hope they will soon.

     

    Welcome to the Contra Dance
    (http://www.youtube.com/v/XuPbte5knOY )

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: SONGS OF THE OPEN ROAD

    ARTIST: FUR DIXON AND STEVE WERNER

    LABEL: GRASS AND GRAVEL RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: 2011

    By Carl Gage

    FUR_AND_STEVE_COVER_songsopenroad_300It seems inevitable that the most talented of songwriters will sooner or later be compelled to do an album of cover songs. This offering by Fur Dixon and Steve Werner is a wonderful testament to the musicians that have inspired them.

    The selections — legends Doc & Merle Watson and Woody Guthrie; folk heroes Jim Ringer, Mary McCaslin and the late Blaze Foley; talented local friends Randall Lamb and Dan Janisch — show not only the kinds of songs Fur and Steve like to perform and listen to but those that showcase their considerable talents.

    Fur and Steve’s harmonies have always been highlights of their work. The arrangements are tight and the instrumentation just right. Steve’s guitar leads and runs add a pleasing dimension to the vocals, always tastefully applied, never overdone. On Dreary Black Hills and I Cannot Settle Down, Steve adds banjo, I imagine the one that his friends chipped in to buy him for his birthday a couple years ago, The banjo work is subdued and effective.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: MILE-HIGH RODEO

    ARTIST: JOHANNA DIVINE

    LABEL: JOHANNA DIVINE

    RELEASE DATE: 2010

    By Joel Okida

    Johanna_DivineJohanna Divine’s Mile-High Rodeo is an instant Americana classic. Just like that! Every song gleans from a different roots music genre and adds what appears to be a Divine touch. She possesses a real knack for melodic hooks, a skill honed, perhaps, from writing jingles for local merchants in Lafayette, Louisiana, her hometown of the past several years. Then there’s the voice; not a seductive Crystal Gayle soprano, nor a lean and stern Tammy Wynette croon, but an up front mid-range that gets the most out of her Knoxville, Tennessee delivery. Divine does not shy away from any style from the Americana catalog. All songs are originals, but you know she’s been around the jukebox of country, swing, jazz, rockabilly, honky-tonk, and torch songs, absorbing a lot of that true grit from the 1930s to the 1960s eras.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: VARIOUS

    TITLE: AMY HANAIALI’I AND SLACK KEY MASTERS OF HAWAII

    LABEL: PETERSON PRODUCTIONS

    RELEASE: 2010

    By Audrey Coleman

    Amy_HanaialiiI took one look at the cover of this CD and concluded that it was a shoe-in for the 2011 Grammy for Best Hawaiian Music Album. After five years of awarding it to compilations of slack key guitar music, the mucky-mucks could enjoy a refreshing twist on their love affair with slack key. Celebrated vocalist, Amy Hanaiali’i, who has lost out to slack key at the Grammies more than once, had teamed up with five masters of the beloved guitar tradition: Cyril Pahinui, Sonny Lim, Dennis Kamakahi, Jeff Peterson, and Chino Montero. It’s a dazzling collaboration and thoroughly enjoyable listening. Did it win the Grammy? No! This year the award for Best Hawaiian album went to a vocalist of more limited gifts than Amy and no hint of slack key guitar on the cover. Go figure! We move on...

    Although it was recorded in a studio, Amy Hanaiali’i and Slack Key Masters of Hawaii has the flavor of a live concert. The musicians each get a turn being center stage, accompanying Amy, in some cases singing with her or playing slack key with one another. Not only do they display their gifts as musicians; in some cases, they showcase their own compositions.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: JEFF PETERSON

    TITLE: MAUI ON MY MIND

    LABEL: PETERSON PRODUCTIONS

    RELEASE: 2010

    By Audrey Coleman

    Jeff_Peterson_-_Maui_on_My_MindThe sun had just risen over Mount Haleakala when we mounted our bikes. Encased in a hooded ski jacket provided by the tour service, I could still feel the bite of the icy air, which began to sting my cheeks as we gained speed. But an hour later, the moonscape of the Haleakala crater seemed worlds away and the lush ranch lands of its slopes came into view. I shed my jacket and enjoyed watching horses calmly grazing in the distance. I will never forget this view of verdant Maui.

    Slack key guitarist Jeff Peterson pays tribute to the place where he grew up with his Grammy-nominated CD, Maui on My Mind. The son of a paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy), Peterson has distinguished himself as a versatile soloist, sought – after accompanist- working with established talent such as vocalist, Amy Hanaiali’i – and, most exciting of all, as a composer.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: LAWRENCE LEBO

    TITLE: DON’T CALL HER LARRY, VOLUME 3: AMERICAN ROOTS

    LABEL: ON THE AIR RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: 2010

    By Joel Okida

    Lawrenence_Lebo_-_Dont_Call_Her_LarryHard to define, eclectic, versatile... are the frequent descriptions Lawrence Lebo has received during and after her three volume set of releases, American Roots, which has now been fully realized with the release of last year’s final recording in the series. That’s she not he, hence the Don’t Call Her Larry proclamation and album sub-title.

    After exploring Big Band blues of the 1930s and 1940s in volume 1 and then displaying her songwriting and arranging skills via the live album in volume 2, in the concluding recording, that versatility is reconfirmed in a simple yet elegant setting with Ms. Lebo accompanied, for the most part, by bassist Denny Croy (Doug MacLeod, Brian Setzer Orchestra). This is song production de-constructed and built back up for the sake of the singer and the song, i.e., it’s not about Spector’s Wall of Sound.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: SAUSAGE GRINDER

    TITLE: DELICIOUS MOMENTS

    LABEL: MOOCH PIDDLE RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: 2010

    More than Meats the Eye

    By Joel Okida

    Sausage_Grinder_-_Delicious_MomentsSex, drugs, and rock and roll. Yes, they’ve been around for a long, long time. Ian Dury wrote a song about the lifestyle. Eric Bogosian did a one-man show on it. Too many hair bands have worn it on their sleeve or inked it on their ____ (fill in the first thing that comes to mind). But back when hooch, a snort of stardust, and carnal pleasures, were sold under the counter, down the alley, on the wrong side of the tracks, and in the back seat, songs about said vices were sung with a very thin negligee of metaphor and without the help from high definition video accompaniment. Because of strict censorship, there was a thing called imagination (read: dirty mind) which made this music titillate ones cerebellum as it traversed the tenderloin district.

    .

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: CEDRIC WATSON ET BIJOU CRÈOLE

    TITLE: CREOLE MOON
    - LIVE FROM BLUE MOON SALOON

    LABEL: VALCOUR RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: 2010

    By Joel Okida

    Cedric_Watson_-_Creole_MoonThe Grammy category for Cajun and Zydeco music is only three years old. A young musician from San Felipe, Texas had his first solo album nominated in 2008 and his second effort made the list in 2009. This year, he’s back again as if it’s as sure a thing as his birthday. At 27 years of age, Cedric Watson, a relative newcomer to the scene, has reached the heights of the recording arts, sharing the charts and accolades with established Cajun and Zydeco giants such as Buckwheat Zydeco, Terrance Simien and Beausoleil.

    Ignoring for the most part the trend of other young Zydeco artists to lean heavily, if not exclusively into hip-hop, smooth R & B, and funk, Watson honed his skills by keeping within the guidelines established by the old school legends of Creole and Cajun music.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: DAVID GREELY

    TITLE: SUD DU SUD

    LABEL: GIVE AND GO RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: 2009

    Strings Attached: David Greely -
    Me and Denis McGee, and a lot more

    You have to know where the party is to find this music. Welcome to our kitchen. Put away your earplugs for awhile. – David Greely

    By Joel Okida

    DAVID_GREELY-SUD_DU_SUDIf you take the accordion out of Cajun music and take the Cajun music out of the dance hall, what will you get? Ace fiddler, David Greely, an original member of the Mamou Playboys, lets us in on a secret most Cajun music aficionados know about, but rarely get to hear, at least in recordings or outside of Louisiana. With Sud du Sud (South of South), the fiddle has a life of its own and in a setting such as this, one gets to experience the instrument away from the din of the Fais dodo.

    With help from local Louisiana talent: Joel Savoy, Sam Broussard, and Gina Forsyth, to name but a few, we get to sit on the front porch or in the kitchen, and listen to the fiddles carry the melodies and the tune without the backbeat, the accordion, a rub board, or even a triangle, dividing our attention. Only one waltz features his vocals. Greely shares with us his interests and influences by playing relatively obscure but no less compelling songs some re-tuned, others rearranged for fiddle.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: THREE MILE STONE

    TITLE: IRISH MUSIC FROM SAN FRANCISCO

    LABEL: THREE MILE STONE MUSIC

    RELEASE DATE: 2010

    By Kevin Carr

    Three_Mile_Stone.jpgThree Mile Stone are three musical compatriots playing and singing sweet, soulful Irish music in the San Francisco Bay Area. Friends for many years, mandolinist Marla Fibish, fiddler Erin Schrader, and guitarist Richard Mandel formalized their musical comradeship as Three Mile Stone several years back, and music lovers are the better for it. There is an easy, trance inducing lilt to everything on this recording, even the driving (and they do drive!) tunes. Lots of love in these notes.

    Lots of chops, too. Erin is a rare fiddler of taste and emotional tone with a sense of space and roots in her playing that is quite beguiling. And Richard is her match on guitar, with a lightning right hand and spot on chord choices. He is also a precise and powerful tenor banjo player.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: UNCLE RUTHIE BUELL

    TITLE: THE JACARANDA TREE

    LABEL: SELF RELEASED

    RELEASE DATE: FALL 2010

    Full Disclosure: I Love Uncle Ruthie

    By Ross Altman

    Uncle_Ruthie.jpgFor obvious reasons, I should not be reviewing Uncle Ruthie's new double CD; full disclosure: we have been friends for twenty-five years, she has cooked noodle kugel for me, I have sung at all of her husbands' memorial services, she has confided in me about each of her boyfriends and assured me that the only reason she was interested in them is because I wasn't available, and I have been a guest on her classic KPFK radio program Halfway Down the Stairs for more times than I can remember-usually losing a nights' sleep to get there at 7:00am to prepare for her 8:00am start time.

    Thus, not only is objectivity out of the question; I am not even able to be impartial, or anything less than avowedly pro-all things-Uncle Ruthie, due to the simple fact that I love her.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: KEOLA BEAMER & RAIATEA HELM

    TITLE: KEOLA BEAMER AND RAIATEA

    LABEL: MOUNTAIN APPLE

    RELEASE DATE: MAY 4, 2010

    A MAGICAL MUSICAL COMBO

    By Audrey Coleman

    KEOLA_BEAMER_AND_RAIATEA.jpgThe ‘ukeke is a small, three-stringed Hawaiian instrument made of koa wood, plucked while held in the mouth, which acts as a resonating chamber. Its otherworldly pulsating sound would not bring to mind John Lennon. But in the first 12 beats of Keola Beamer & Raiatea, a lone 'ukeke ushers in the opening notes of Imagine. Played by Moanalani Beamer (Keola Beamer's wife and ensemble member), it keeps solemn time while Keola Beamer and Raiatea Helm perform the song in beautifully intertwined Hawaiian and English. Keola accompanies their vocals in his signature slack key (ki ho 'alu) guitar style and the Spring Wind Quintet enriches the arrangement. Hawaiian chanting (oli) by Charles Ka'upu brings this unique version of Imagine to a close. The effect is of a universal hymn.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: NEIL YOUNG

    TITLE: LE NOISE

    LABEL: REPRISE

    RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER, 2010

    THE JOY OF DISTORTION AND TRUTH

    By Terry Roland

    Neil_Young_Le_Noise.jpgWatch the Love and War YouTube Video

    Neil Young is always willing to take things a little further along than the rest of the pack. While many roots artists are still catching up with the Cash/Rubin era of bare-to-the-bone acoustic recordings which began in the 1990s, Young has released Le Noise with the considerable visionary support of Daniel Lanois (even the album's name seems to echo a tribute to the great producer who has recently recovered from a life-threatening motocycle accident) and has given us a singular stripped-down distortion-driven album; lyrical and vulnerable, with studio effects commonly used to shield rather than expose. The success of La Noise hinges on the writer's ability to engage and the artist's willingness to risk, something Young has been doing for decades with sometimes stunning successes and failures

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: SABRINA & CRAIG

    TITLE: ONE HOME, ONE HEART

    LABEL: INDEPENDENT

    RELEASE DATE: SPRING, 2010

    By Carl Gage

    SabrinaCraig_One_HomeOne_Heart.jpgBy the time I realized I wasn't listening to a Segovia record, I remembered what a masterful finger-style guitar player Craig Lincoln is. Seconds later, I remembered the beautifully tight harmonies that I have come to expect when Sabrina and Craig sing, and the opening song, Sabrina's Make You Mine demonstrates that wonderfully.

    Craig's humor abounds in Little White Lies and the painfully cute Cats & Dogs, while Sabrina's shines in Help Wanted and her car song, Mine All Mine.

    The title track is hauntingly melodic and the lyrics parse the Chinese symbol for love. "" consists of a heart, inside of "accept," "feel," or "perceive," and it may also be interpreted as a hand offering ones heart to another hand. A very imaginative message as well as a beautiful composition.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: VARIOUS ARTISTS

    TITLE: BLACK SABBATH: THE SECRET MUSICAL HISTORY OF BLACK-JEWISH RELATIONS

    LABEL: THE IDELSOHN SOCIETY

    RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 14, 2010

    By Audrey Coleman

    BlackSabbath.jpgYou haven't experienced the full aesthetic potential of If I Were a Rich Man from Fiddler on the Roof until you have heard The Temptations' rendition of the Broadway favorite. You can dig-a-dig-a-dum this and 14 other recordings of Black artists interpreting Jewish content in Black Sabbath: The Secret Musical History of Black-Jewish Relations, a CD released this September by the Idelsohn Society, an organization dedicated to collecting and preserving precious old recordings with Jewish content and exploring their significance.

    This collection, packaged in a handsome mock-book with ample liner notes, can be appreciated on many levels. There are masterful interpretations by luminaries such as Billy Holiday, Alberta Hunter, and Cannonball Adderley. There are songs that stir memories of an era of American history or a state of American race relations that seems long past yet resonates emotionally. Some cuts may even provoke a negative reaction.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: FISHTANK ENSEMBLE

    TITLE: WOMAN IN SIN

    RELEASE DATE: 2010

    LABEL: INDEPENDENT

    By Joel Okida

    Fishtank.jpgThe ever chameleonic Fishtank Ensemble have once again added more colors to their palette, spilling over into a pastiche of songs, traditional and new, retaining their own style, but honoring the sources. This is an epic musical variety show except all the performances are performed by four talented musicians and some added guests.

    Their third recording, propagated from a group pared down from 2007's Samurai Over Serbia, is Woman in Sin. There's nothing like a live show by Fishtank Ensemble, but if studio production loses some of the visceral of the powerful group's 3D presence, it does allow for insightful listening where one can bear audible witness to the group's attention to detail on each of the twelve tracks, not to mention the wide range in which they can operate.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: NIGHTINGALE

    TITLE: THREE

    LABEL: INDEPENDENT

    RELEASE DATE: 2004

    By Nancy MacMillan

    CD Review originally appeared in FolkWorks V4N5 Sep/Oct 2004Â

    Nightingale_Three.jpgFans of the Vermont-based trio Nightingale have had to wait a long time for Three, the band's third CD. It has been eight years since the last recording (Sometimes When the Moon is High; the first CD was entitled The Coming Dawn). Three is worth the wait. Bottom line, here's what you should know about this CD: it is a musical feast, full of thoughtfully crafted medleys, excellently played. Becky Tracy's fiddling is strong and expressive, whether she's singing out a melody, weaving in a harmony or providing a rhythmic riff. In Jeremiah McLane's inspired accordion and piano playing, you can hear evidence of his study of styles such as Quebecois and French music, as well as his masters degree in Contemporary Improvisation. Keith Murphy not only plays superbly on mandolin, guitar, piano, and on his feet (providing foot percussion); he also has a fine singing voice.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: BASSEKOU KOUYATE AND NGONI BA

    TITLE: I SPEAK FULA

    RELEASE DATE: 2010

    LABEL: SUB-POP

    By Joel Okida

    BASSEKOU_KOUYATE_1.jpgAre you happy?" inquires the tall imposing figure of Bassekou Kouyate at a concert earlier this year at the Getty. As if insecure about the effects of his music which should evoke this sense of elation, he repeats this question at the end of every other song. And as the set progresses, you decide, yes, I am happy, regardless of the language barrier and the actual content of each song. The layperson can appreciate the technique and the rolling wave of sound, not to mention the energy radiated by each of the musicians who go from stoic self-conscious performance to playful dancing and contagious smiles. Hints of 60s-era jamming weave in and out of the melodies which retain the griot spiritual sensibility. This is not uncommon in much of Malian music, and especially that of the stringed instrument variety.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: THE UNWANTED

    TITLE: SONGS FROM THE ATLANTIC FRINGE

    LABEL: COMPASS RECORDS

    RELEASE: 2009

    By Joel Okida

    UNWANTED.jpgAt any given acoustic jam that might include musicians of old time, Celtic, Appalachian, or any other form that serves up songs of a traditional disposition, you might hear a certain similarity between old ballads, folk blues, lullabies, and church music. There might be a twist in the lyrics that bends an old Irish lament into something akin to an American blues tune or a harmonica melody might remind you of some doleful dirge from a concertina heard in a nameless pub you fell into one night.

    Songs from the Atlantic Fringe, a collaborative effort from three musicians, collectively known as The Unwanted, calls attention to this common ground where music has infiltrated one continent and then returned, altered here and there, often colored with regional lyrics or instrumentation.Â

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: PETE SEEGER WITH THE RIVERTOWN KIDS AND FRIENDS

    TITLE: TOMORROW'S CHILDREN:
    PETE SEEGER WITH THE RIVERTOWN KIDS AND FRIENDS

    LABEL: APPLESEED RECORDS
    (APR CD 1123)

    RELEASE DATE: 2010

    By Ross Altman, PhD

    Pete_Seeger_Tomorrows_Children.jpgWhen Pete Seeger was charged with Contempt of Congress for not answering House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC)'s questions on August 18, 1955, he began a long sojourn as an underground artist, after having headed the most successful pop folk quartet in music history just five years before. That would be The Weavers, which crashed and burned less than one year after soaring to the top of the hit parade in 1950, with their two-sided hit record of Tzena Tzena Tzena and Goodnight Irene. They were blacklisted before the year was out, and had two years worth of bookings cancelled on them overnight.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: VARIOUS ARTISTS

    TITLE: SILVER METEOR (A PROGRESSIVE COUNTRY ANTHOLOGY)

    LABEL: SIERRA RECORDS SXCD 6032

    RELEASE DATE: JUNE 2010

    By Dennis Roger Reed

    silver_meteor.jpgLos Angeles was the home of the invention of country rock in the late 1960s, and for almost a decade this genre flourished and made millions of dollars for the major record companies. The Eagles were probably the most famous of the groups that played country rock, although only their first record and portions of the next few really mined this genre.

    The original release of Silver Meteor (on Sierra as well) was back in 1980. It served not only as a great overview of LA country rock music including some now almost forgotten artists, but it also featured the four songs that the late Clarence White recorded for his first solo album. Sadly, this project was not completed since a few weeks after these recordings were done, White was killed by a drunk driver while loading his equipment following a gig in Palmdale.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: PETE SEEGER

    TITLE: LIVE IN ‘65

    LABEL: APPLESEED RECORDINGS

    RELEASE: 2009

    PETE SEEGER: HALF AS OLD, TWICE AS GOOD

    By Ross Altman

    Pete_Seeger_Live_in_65.jpgHaving just ended a year that saw Pete Seeger's 90th birthday celebrated by rock and folk royalty at the Madison Square Garden, after being awarded his first competitive Grammy for the album Pete Seeger: At 89, it is chastening to be reminded what all the fuss was about with this brand new release of an extraordinary concert that Pete gave 45 years ago on February 20, 1965-recorded live but only now released for the first time.

    If you think you have heard the best of Pete Seeger with his Grammy-winning album, or even with the moving and memorable performance at Obama's Inaugural Concert last January 20, think again.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: TOM CORBETT

    TITLE: TONIGHT I RIDE

    LABEL: ROUNDHOLE RECORDS, 2010

    Tom_Corbett.jpgTom Corbett's new CD, Tonight I Ride, is the kind of fun, quality album that those who have worked with him in the Southern California music scene for many years always knew he was capable of putting together. This is Tom's third solo release and -- with no disrespect meant to his first two efforts -- it is his best album so far.

    Tom's mandolin, guitar and harmony vocals have graced the recordings and performances of a numerous assortment of Southern California's folk and bluegrass community. He has been one of the most versatile acoustic artists on the West Coast Americana scene for a number of years now, including a regular stint with John McEuen's String Wizards.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: DAVID BREWER AND REBECCA LOMNICKY

    TITLE: INSPIRED

    LABEL: DAVID BREWER/MOLRI MUSIC

    RELEASE DATE: JUNE 2010

    By Roland Sturm

    BREWER_LOMNICKY.jpgInspired is a CD of elegant Scottish music by David Brewer, the piper and whistle player in the Celtic band Molly's Revenge, and Rebecca Lomnicky, a young fiddler from Oregon. "Elegant" or perhaps "stately" seem to be the best words to capture the atmosphere, in particular the fiddle style. It is slower and more refined than old-time or Irish fiddling, but it is not classical music either. If you are not familiar with this genre, this CD is a good introduction. If you are already a fan Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas, Inspired will be an enjoyable addition to your CD collection.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: EVIE LADIN

    TITLE: FLOAT DOWNSTREAM

    LABEL: YODEL-AY-HEE RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 2010

    By Kelly Marie Martin

    Evie_Ladin_CD.jpgEvie Ladin, step dancer, banjo player and singer in the Stairwell Sisters has just released her first collection of songs, Float Downstream. From the opening track, I Love My Honey, with its stripped down banjo, rhythm and voice, she shows you where she's from-- "a girl who ran barefoot through muddy festivals, soaking up traditional American music and dance." Although this tune (from fiddler Santford Kelly) and the album have those late night acoustic elements of fire and firewater, its overall sound has a more global, contemporary singer-songwriter blend.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: POKEY LA FARGE
    AND THE SOUTH CITY THREE

    TITLE: RIVERBOAT SOUL

    LABEL: FREE DIRT RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 2010

    By Dennis Roger Reed

    POKEY_LA_FARGE_AND_THE_SOUTH_CITY_THREE.jpgIt's hard not to like Pokey La Farge and the South City Three. For want of a better term, Pokey and the boys play "good time music." If you're old enough to remember the Lovin' Spoonful or the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, then you have some idea of what type of music Pokey plays. Maybe you're a blues fan and know about the Memphis Jug Band. Maybe you're a folk fan and you like The New Lost City Ramblers. You know that Pokey does. But perhaps you don't like upbeat music. Perhaps you can't abide by humor in music, or even just plain silliness. Perhaps you have no fondness for straw hats and spats. If so, then read no more.

    Pokey La Farge is a St. Louis based musician, all of twenty six years old.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: THE CHIEFTAINS
    FEATURING RY COODER

    TITLE: SAN PATRICIO

    LABEL: Blackrock Records

    RELEASE DATE: March 2010

    By Kevin Carr

    Chieftains_San_Patricio_CD.jpgThe package is so gorgeous it grabs you right away. Big bold southern colors and Latin looking iconography. gives you a warm feeling that this might be a special recording. First off the sparkling harp of Celso Duarte takes you right to Vera Cruz. But wait, there are the Chieftains - with Sonny's Mazurka. So Irish. Will this work? Then Lila Downs hypnotic vocals take command, and the whole thing gels in a most marvelous way, with the pipes, whistle, flute taking decidedly Latin lines, and seemingly having a ball. Then back to the Mazurka in the end, and you realize, this is going to be gooood.

    Read more...  
  • ARTISTS: ALI FARKA TOURÉ
    AND TOUMANI DIABATÉ

    TITLE: ALI AND TOUMANI

    LABEL: WORLD CIRCUIT/NONESUCH

    RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY, 2010

    By Tom Cheyney

    ALI_AND_TOUMANI.jpgIt's been four years since cancer took Ali Farka Touré, but the gentleman farmer, Niger River bluesman, and former mayor of Niafunké has left us with one last sonic memento. Ali and Toumani finds the guitarist teaming up again with countryman and kora virtuoso Toumani Diabaté (with whom Ali won a Grammy for In The Heart of the Moon) and a few special guests, including Ali's son Vieux and the late Cuban bassist Cachaito Lopez. (In a sad irony, these were the Buena Vista Social Club sideman's last recording sessions as well.) The album's 11 cuts, recorded over three days in June 2005 at a London studio, manage to be both spontaneous and contemplative, a timeless slice of pan-Malian musicology riven with a laidback acoustic intensity reminiscent of the best back-porch jam sessions (albeit a very well-recorded one).

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: GRADA

    TITLE: NATURAL ANGLE

    LABEL: COMPASS RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: JANUARY, 2010

    By Kevin Carr

    Grada_Natural_Angle.jpgTwo things hit me from the first, listening to Natural Angle, Grada's latest release on Compass Records. First, this recording just sounds fantastic, and second, these great players have carved out a unique sound amidst the proliferation of fiddle/accordion/flute/guitar.female vocalist Irish bands now showcasing Irish music on the world's stages. Grada's music is rooted and strong, with a sense of humor and it is quite emotionally powerful without losing an truly engaging sense of spontaneity.

    Abe's Axe, a set that links a trad tune with one of the band's own composition, leads with David Doocey's lovely focused flying fiddle, then Stephen Doherty comes in with breathy percussive effects on flute that work perfectly, all respect to Jethro Tull, before joining the fiddle in a duet that sounds both traditional and fresh, and, as in the best trad duets, more than the sum of two very good parts.  

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: CARRIE NEWCOMER

    TITLE: BEFORE & AFTER

    LABEL: ROUNDER

    RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 2010

    By Terry Roland

    CARRIE_NEWCOMEER.jpgThere's no folk like Quaker folk. On the cover of Carrie Newcomer's new CD, Before & After, she is illustrated in warm sunset colors on a train. The window shows a scene outside; a golden sun and several birds in flight. And there is Carrie, busy writing on a pad of paper with book in hand, her feet relaxed on the seat across from her. It is a serene portrait of an artist at work with her inspirations around her.

    And what is inside the album demonstrates a quality equal to the cover art. An artist at work in her element, deepening her art, fine tuning her observations of the ordinary and always with her hand on the pulse of the spiritual cravings of the human soul. 

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: Euphonia

    TITLE: The Old Jawbone

      By Stuart Mason

    Reprinted with permission from Fiddle Freak  

    Euphonia.jpgSylvia Herold is probably the best folksinger you've never heard of. This dynamic and sophisticated vocalist, from the East Bay area of San Francisco, is leader of the folk ensemble known as Euphonia. The group also features mandolinist Paul Kotapish, box player Charlie Hancock, and double bassist Chuck Ervin, and guests. Their material ranges from acoustic swing to traditional Celtic, and anything goes in between, but it's all pretty.

    Euphonia's latest release is The Old Jawbone, which as far as I can tell is their second offering, although Sylvia has other recordings on her website. 

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: Earthworm Ensemble

    TITLE: I See Earthworms in L.A.

    LABEL: Western Seeds Records

    RELEASE DATE: February 19, 2010

    By Joel Okida

    Sunday, March 7, 2010 - 2:30 pm CD release show

    at The Echo 1822 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026 213 413-8200 

    Earthworm_Ensembl_CD_Cover.jpgIn the category of children's music, dozens of musicians have made their entire careers writing and performing music exclusively for tykes and pre-teens. A handful of acoustic musicians who usually write sensitive adult songs will occasionally make the foray into a children's album as their own offspring or those near to them can often be the catalysts for creating kid choruses. Some well-known performers have crossed-over for a stab at creating a songbook of tunes palatable to the little ones. Leadbelly, Johnny Cash, and David Grisman are just a few that come to mind. And a few years ago, even the alt-country guys and gals took some time away from songs of dark love, dark roads, the dark before light, and whiskey, and contributed some bouncy rhymes to The Bottle Let Me Down: Songs for Bumpy Wagon Rides.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: The Haints Old Time String Band

    TITLE: Shout Monah

    RELEASE: Spring 2009

    By Kathy Bawn

    The_Haints_CD_cover.jpgShout Monah is the first album by The Haints Old Time String Band. Featuring Erynn Marshall on fiddle, Jason Romero on banjo and vocals, and Pharis Romero on guitar and vocals, the Haints are anchored near Victoria, BC, where Erynn (now of Galax, Virginia) hails from, and where Jason and Pharis now live. The Haints channel the energy and often-overlooked versatility of old-time Southern music. Yes, this CD is squarely in the old-time tradition -- no experimental blending with other genres or taking off in new directions here. But, no, these songs and tunes don't all fit into a single mold or follow the same groove. The Haints explore the many twisty by-roads of Southern mountain music, pulling together an album that is novel and enticing, all the while hewing close to traditional roots.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: David Brewer

    TITLE: Turning Pages

    LABEL: David Brewer/Molri Music

    By Roland Sturm

    David_Brewer_CD_cover.jpgIf you enjoy Scottish bagpipe music and wanted to get a CD featuring this amazing instrument, the CD Turning Pages by David Brewer is a good place to start. David is the piper and whistle player of Molly's Revenge and the Scottish Highland pipes is his main instrument. The CD contains a mix of traditional pipe tunes, airs, marches, jigs, and reels.

    The Scottish bagpipe is a somewhat odd instrument and there is not a huge amount of recorded music that has broad appeal because recordings tend to fall into two narrow camps. The better known camp is marching bands featuring pipes and drums, the minority camp is a solo style that can appear rather monotonous. Very rarely bands like Molly's Revenge or the Battlefield Band integrate Scottish bagpipes with other instruments, but the pipes are secondary on their recordings.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: BETH WOOD

    TITLE: BEACHCOMBER'S DAUGHTER

    LABEL: INDEPENDENT

    Release Date: February, 2008

    By Susie Glaze

    Beth_Wood_CD_Cover.jpgBeth Wood is an artist you should know about. A powerful singer/songwriter of new contemporary folk music, her newest project, her eighth independent release Beachcomber's Daughter, is a gorgeous musical joy ride, vividly and movingly brought to life via a confident and kick-ass country rock and roll, at the same time tender, poetic and painful, with a wicked and wonderful humor to top everything off.

    Beth has achieved an impressive array of awards for her work, from winning the Kerrville New Folk Contest in 2005, the 2006 Sisters Folk Festival Dave Carter Memorial Songwriting Contest, the 2004 Wildflower Festival Songwriters Contest, and was a finalist in the 2007 Telluride Troubadour Contest among others, along with a big list of festival appearances and college touring. It's a resume that makes you want to sit up and listen.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: Johnny Rivers

    TITLE: Shadows on the Moon

    LABEL: Soul City Records

    RELEASE DATE: 2009

    Johnny Rivers' Shadows on the Moon Offers Fresh New Acoustic Music

    By Terry Roland

    Johnny_Rivers_CD_cover.jpgThere are voices that have followed us through our lives. We've heard them on our car radios as we've raced through the decades of our childhood. They have played like a soundtrack for our lives through the beaches, valleys, deserts and prarie roads we've traveled on our way to our present. Johnny Rivers carries such a voice. So much so, when he sings, we sit up and listen. We take notice because of our common history. When he first emerged in the mid-sixties at his now legendary engagements and live recordings at the Whiskey A-Go-Go, he created a tour de force that helped to break down the wall between pop and folk music. With recordings like Where Have All The Flowers Gone, Midnight Special and Memphis he did what it took The Byrds five people to do; bring folk-rock to the musical stages of L.A. in the mid-sixties.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: BOULDER ACOUSTIC SOCIETY

    TITLE: PUNCHLINE

    LABEL: NINE MILE RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: AUGUST, 2009

    BY JOEL OKIDA

    Boulder_Acoustic_Society_Punchline.jpgBoulder Acoustic Society has been called a mini-orchestra rather than your basic rock and roll band. They are a lively musical caravan made up of four Colorado-based musicians who burn up stages across the country to many a sold-out venue. The varied backgrounds of BAS allow them to give a kaleidoscopic performance that is impressive, but without any hint of pretension. With Punchline, they transfer some of variety to a digital package. The ambitious nature of the packaging of the CD, although no enhancement to the music nor insightful to the songs (no lyric listings), adds a dimension (literally 3D!) of the band as both poseur and provocateur. It will stand out musically, as well as literally, on your CD storage shelf.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: JENI HANKINS AND BILLY KEMP

    TITLE: JEWELL RIDGE COAL

    LABEL: JEWELL RIDGE RECORDS

    Release Date: Autumn 2008

    By Susie Glaze

    Jewel_Ridge_Coal_CD_Cover.jpgI recently became acquainted with the Appalachian folk music duo of Jeni Hankins and Billy Kemp (they bill themselves as "Jeni & Billy") when I met and played alongside them at the FAR-West (Folk Alliance Regional) Music Conference in Irvine in early November. We shared a discussion panel on Appalachian music, and later we shared songs in a roundtable showcase room. It was, by virtue of the close confines of the room, a wonderfully intimate experience of their work, but also intimate by virtue of their art, their writing and performance style, and their honest, loving, warm and authentic presence.

    Read more...  
  • Artist: The New Lost City Ramblers

    Title: The New Lost City Ramblers
          3-Volume CD Boxed Set (SFW40180)

          Volume I The Early Years, 1958-1962
               (with original trio including Tom Paley)

         Volume II Outstanding in Their Field, 1963-1973
               (with Tracy Schwartz)
               [Compiled and annotated by Jon Pankake]

         Volume III Where Do You Come From? Where Do You Go?
               50th anniversary celebration

               [Co-produced and compiled by Mike Seeger,
              John Cohen and Tracy Schwartz, Annotated by Ray Allen]

    Release Date: 2009

    Label: Smithsonian Folkways

    In Search of The New Lost City Ramblers:

    By Ross Altman, Ph.D.

    NLCR_Where_Did_You_Come_From.jpg"If you remember the 60s you weren't there," insisted Wavy Gravy, one of its iconic counter-cultural heroes, but as Johnny Cash replied in his early gospel masterpiece, "I was there when it happened, so I guess I ought to know"-the "it" in this case being the folk revival. And all of us who were there know, what was the most reliable source for accurate information about that on-going odyssey through America's bedrock music. That would be The Little Sandy Review, which was edited and published by Paul Nelson and Jon Pankake, in the same state from which came the folk revival's most astonishing artist. That would be Minnesota, home to both Bob Dylan and Jon Pankake-and thereby hangs a tale.

    Pankake was generous with the artists he championed from the pages of his and Nelson's journal-often to a fault. When the young, still-unformed, busking would-be troubadour had no place to stay, Jon put him up on his couch. 

    Read more...  
  • Artist: Steve Mann

    Title: Alive and Pickin' (BRM CD-110)

    Release Date: 2005

    Title: Live At The Ash Grove (BRM CD-111)

    Release Date: 2008

    Label: Bella Roma Music, Berkeley CA

    By Barry Smiler

    An steve_mann_live_at_the_ashgrove.jpgup-and-coming phenom in mid-1960s Los Angeles, he was poised to hit it big; everyone who heard him was blown away. Listening to these two recordings, it's easy to see why. But it never happened. His story is sometimes compared to that of the Nobel Prize winning mathematician John Nash, which was made into the movie A Beautiful Mind a few years ago. Like Nash, Steve Mann's mental illness became the dominant force in his later life, overshadowing his earlier promise. 

    steve_man_alive_and_pickin.jpgHappily though, we do have these two recordings. Most of these cuts are from the 1960s when Steve was at his peak and still performing in concert. There is also one cut on Alive And Pickin' that was recorded in 2004.

    Alive and Pickin' is a compilation of cuts from a number of sources. It starts off with a live set (recorded by his old friend Stefan Grossman) that offers a fine sense of Steve's range and power. Starting with a fine Jelly Roll, it moves to Mose Allison's If You Live, a jazz tune - indeed, Steve always said he did a lot of jazz. For example, his Amazing Gospel Tune, also in this set, is pure Ray Charles.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: STEVE MANN

    TITLE:  STRAIGHT LIFE

    LABEL: BELLA ROMA MUSIC (BRM CD-112)

    RELEASE DATE: November 2009

    Blues Mann

    By Ross Altman, Ph.D.

    Steve_mann_Straight_Life_cover.jpgBanjo player Fred Sokolow brought a blues guitarist friend to the Ash Grove one night in 1967 to see Steve Mann. As Steve launched into a Blind Lemon Jefferson tune, 99 Years Blues, Fred noticed his friend unbutton the top button of his shirt. By the time Steve finished the song, 2 and ½ minutes later, Fred's friend had pulled out a handkerchief and started to daub some beads of sweat that had formed on his forehead.

    Steve then turned his attention to a Ray Charles classic Drown In My Own Tears, and miraculously recreated on six strings Charles' 88 keys piano accompaniment, complete with his jazz chords. Fred's guitarist friend's underarms were starting to pour sweat all over his new cotton twill shirt, leaving massive stains that were starting to overwhelm his neat tie in the middle.

    Read more...  
  • Artist: Liz Carroll and John Doyle

    Title: Double Play

    Label: Compass Records

    Release Date: 2009

    By Kathy Bawn

    Liz_John_Double_Play.jpg

    Double Play is the second album from Liz Carroll and John Doyle as duo. Following their first duo effort, In Play (2005), Double Play is work of outstanding musicianship, arguably the best traditional Celtic CD of the year.

    Liz Carroll occupies an interesting position among contemporary Irish fiddlers. Unlike, Kevin Burke or Martin Hayes, most of the tunes she plays, on this CD and others, are generally not traditional tunes from the public domain, but rather her own compositions. She's a prolific tunemaster.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: BOB DYLAN

    TITLE: CHRISTMAS IN THE HEART

    LABEL: COLUMBIA RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 2009

    It's All Over Now, Baby Jew

    By Ross Altman

    Dylan_Christmas.jpgBefore you put this CD in your playback machine take a look at the small package this good thing comes in. Every touch has meaning, and was attended to with more than a modicum of thought. The front cover has what looks like-though it may only be simulated-a 19th century Currier and Ives print of a couple riding a sleigh being pulled by a team of energetic horses, charging out of the circular frame in which there is a lovely winter scene with a snowy landscape. It looks like they are heading out of this bygone world into your postmodern living room. The typeface for the title-Christmas In the Heart-is also studiously old-fashioned, derived from many a 19th or early 20th century theatre poster.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: ERNEST TROOST

    TITLE: RESURRECTION BLUES

    LABEL: TRAVELIN' SHOES RECORDS

    Release Date: October 2009

    By Susie Glaze

    Ernest_Troost.jpg2009 Kerrville New Folk Winner Ernest Troost's newest album, the aptly titled Resurrection Blues is a brilliant new piece of songwriting art. Its thirteen Piedmont-blues influenced songs tell stories of passion, lost love and regret-filled lives at a cross-roads, looking for a modern-day answer to "how did things ever get this far?" and "when did the darkness fall?" Ernest Troost's existential questions run rampant in his first three songs; and then, the stories begin.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: HABERDASHERY

    TITLE: ILLUMINATED ROAD

    LABEL: HABERDASHERY MUSIC

    RELEASE DATE: SPRING 2009

    By Roland Sturm

    HaberdasheryCD.jpgHaberdashery is a new group from Los Angeles and just released their first CD. And what a fine first project it is! Haberdashery is hard to classify stylistically, but if you like Astor Piazolla, you'll enjoy them. Maybe it could be described as a mixture of Tango, Jazz, Folk, Gypsy, and French music, but that is not too helpful either. You just have to hear it and you can get samples on their website.

    The musicianship is very impressive, the technique of classically trained musicians with the energy and drive of folk music and the improvisational skill of jazz. They are a classy band (not to mention a very well dressed band).

    Read more...  
  • Artist: MARIA MULDAUR

    Title: MARIA MULDAUR LIVE IN CONCERT

    Label: GLOBAL RECORDING ARTISTS

    Release Date: AUGUST 2009

    BY DENNIS ROGER REED

    MariaMuldaurLive.jpgMaria Muldaur has had a somewhat schizophrenic career. Her early work was totally roots oriented, working with the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, singing, playing fiddle and serving as a sort of folk music sex symbol. But by far her biggest success was as a pop jazz chanteuse warbling Midnight at the Oasis. To some, she's the iconic hippy chick with the long thick hair, dancing to Bob Dylan at Newport. To others, she is an almost Mae West-ian entertainer, as known for her repartee and cleavage as her song selection. Midnight has become, like it or not, a standard, at least judging by Wal-Mart and recent elevator investigation.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: JUSTIN ADAMS & JULDEH CAMARA

    TITLE: TELL NO LIES

    LABEL: REAL WORLD RECORDS

    BY JOEL OKIDA

    Tell_No_Lies.jpgThe combination of British guitarist/producer Justin Adams and Gambian spike fiddle (ritti) master, Juldeh Camara, produces a sound that either completes the circle of Africa-to-America and-back-again musical history or, at the very least, takes a part of the arc and intersects it with a new kind of Afro-blues genre.

    On their newest recording, Tell No Lies, the obvious riffs from classic blues tunes weave in and out of many of the songs. Echoes of Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker and Slim Harpo resonate throughout, but Camara's Fulani vocals (a nomadic people of Gambia and other countries across West Africa) and ritti sawing cut deeply through Adams' thick guitar lead lines.

    Read more...  
  • Artist: PETER JOSEPH BURTT

    Title: HAND TO MOUTH

    Label: TEN TO TWELVE PRODUCTIONS

    Release Date: APRIL 2009

    BY DENNIS ROGER REED

    PeterJosephBurttCD.jpgWe last left Peter Joseph Burtt with Sunken Forest. It was a treasure trove of African influenced blues, folk and pop. The interim years have not found Burtt resting on his laurels, and so we come to Hand To Mouth.

    As with Sunken Forest, Burtt called upon his friend Corey Harris to produce. Harris provides guitar and vocals. Chris Cox is on keyboards, and Ben Isaacs does percussion. Burtt plays kora, guitar, mbir, vocals and wrote six of the nine songs on the project.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: RONNY COX

    TITLE: SONGS...WITH REPERCUSSIONS

    LABEL: WIND RIVER RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: 2009

    BY LARRY WINES

    RonnyCoxCD.jpgExpectations are high around here when Ronny Cox releases a new album. And fair disclosure is due: this reviewer named him among FolkWorks' "Top Ten / Best of 2008" male singer-songwriters in L.A., two years after he earned "Listener Favorite" status on radio's "Tied to the Tracks" for his original song, Sanctuary, about a newborn wild horse. And even before this review and another due this month in Dirty Linen magazine, Songs... with Repercussions was the number one album on the "Folk DJ" play list for the month of June, and Happy Father's Day, a track on the album, was the number 4 song of the month.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: CHRISTA BURCH

    TITLE: LOVE OF THE LAND

    LABEL: SELF-RELEASED

    RELEASE DATE: MARCH 2009

    BY KATHY BAWN AND OBIN STURM

    ChristaBurch.jpgLove of the Land is the first solo CD by Christa Burch, a Southern Californian who has contributed her many musical talents to a variety of West Coast music projects, playing bodhran with the Syncopaths and Blackwaterside, singing as one-half of the a capella group Lintie. Love of the Land is a vocal CD, a collection of Celtic songs, some traditional pieces, mostly from Scotland and Ireland, but also some new compositions in the Celtic tradition. The CD is produced by Dennis Cahill, best known for his haunting, sparse guitar-playing with Irish fiddler Martin Hayes. Fans of the Hayes-Cahill recordings will find some of the same sweet, evocative and exploratory playing here.

    Read more...  
  • Artist: SHAUN CROMWELL

    Title: THE TURNING OF CLOCKS

    Label: MELON PATCH RECORDS

    Release Date: 2007

    BY KELLY MARIE MARTIN

    ShawnCromwell.jpg

    The Turning of Clocks is an album of original and traditional flat picked blues by Shaun Cromwell. Although released in 2007, the impetus for reviewing the album here stems from his solo performance at the Fourth Ever Los Angeles Old Time Social in May of this year. The reality, and I'm not being trite, his performance knocked everybody's socks off--an audience largely full of discerning American roots musicians. As stated on his Myspace page, it was recorded with one microphone, a couple of beat-up guitars and many short sessions over a period of several months, is his first release and is a meditation on death and impermanence.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: RICHARD THOMPSON

    TITLE: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF

    RICHARD THOMPSON

    LABEL: FREE REED US RELEASE

    RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 7, 2006

    (Ed. Note: Important release from the past)

     

    The Life and Times of Richard Thompson:
    A Feast For The Eyes, Ears and Soul

    BY TERRY ROLAND

    LTRT_6.jpg LTRT_1.jpg

    If a Nobel Prize could be given for the best box set anthology in release, The Life and Music of Richard Thompson would win hands down. How's that for fan-like hyperbole? Spreading out over five CDs, it covers the years from 1971 to 2006 where Richard is still a dynamic and innovative force in popular music today. One of the clear highlights of this box-set is the demonstration of how hard-to-categorize Richard has become over the years. Is he British folk, American rock or a Celtic balladeer? For those who have recently been introduced to or the veteran fans who date back to the salad days of Fairport Convention, this anthology will prove essential in that it not only yields a valuable and engaging look at the artist himself, but like the best releases of the last 50 years, it opens the doors and windows of the music and songs the singer-songwriter, like a modern Pied Piper, leads us to. While many of his peers have had pockets of phenomenal success, seasons of retirement or creative dry spells, Richard Thompson has moved steadily ahead, consistently exploring and deepening the art of his music, lyric and performance style. He is the uncommonly rare songwriter's working man showing up to the job everyday for the last 40 years and he has yet to disappoint.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: JEREMY GARRETT

    TITLE: I AM A STRANGER

    LABEL: SUGAR HILL

    RELEASE DATE: March 2009

    BY SUSIE GLAZE

    JeremyGarret_s.jpg

    The state of contemporary Bluegrass is in an interesting position: the genre has become a new melting pot, an amalgam of styles and sounds encompassing Old Time, Folk, Blues, Country, Jazz, Pop and, of course (hopefully!) Bluegrass - the original sounds of Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys. Why this is interesting is because Bluegrass at its creation was a monumental evolution of gathered sounds, from Tin Pan Alley, Blues, Black Gospel, Appalachian ballads, Irish dance music, set to a blindingly fast pace, with high lead vocals and group harmonies tighter than a drum. So now, it's gratifying to watch it growing again and changing with this new generation, called "a Bluegrass youth revolution" by some, all the while reaching back to grab, with love and reverence, the old sounds of driving Bluegrass, George Jones-type country music, Western Swing and mountain fiddle, melding with pop-flavored contemporary sounds.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: PETE SEEGER

    TITLE: AMERICAN FAVORITE BALLADS, Vol 1-5 

    LABEL:  SMITHSONIAN-FOLKWAYS

    I Hear America Singing:

    Re-released With Notes by Dr. Guy Logsdon and Jeff Place

    By Ross Altman

    seegerAFB_s.jpg

    The last time I saw Dr. Guy Logsdon, former Head Librarian at the University of Tulsa, he was singing dirty cowboy songs. I don't mean dirty as in dusty, or straight off the trail, I mean dirty as in unprintable in a family magazine, daily newspaper, or any media outlet controlled by the FCC. His classic book, "The Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing" and Other Songs Cowboys Sing, was the result of a lifetime fascination with the songs that John Lomax missed when he pioneered the field. Lomax's late Victorian sensibility had some blind spots when it came to appreciating the less cultivated aspects of the folk.

    There are a dozen collections of cowboy songs wherein you will find The Strawberry Roan, for example, but if you want to learn The Castration of the Strawberry Roan you will need to find Logsdon's book.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: GUY DAVIS

    TITLE: SWEETHEART LIKE YOU

    LABEL: RED HOUSE (RHR CD 211)

    RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 2009

    BY DENNIS ROGER REED

    GuyDavis_s.jpg

    You probably know the back story on Guy Davis: parents are actors/writers Ruby Dee and the late Ossie Davis, little Guy was bounced on somebody famous' knee. He has produced and acted with success. He's recorded nine CDs for Red House. And his ninth is named after a Bob Dylan tune Davis has recorded once before. And what a cover it is.

    It starts with that Dylan familiarity, the blend of the organ, drums and guitars. Is it from Blonde on Blonde? No, wait, that's a newer song, and wait again: that ain't Bob singing! It's a huskier, fuller voice, but the voice wraps around Bob's tale of small town bravado and longing with even more conviction than Bob mustered for his version.

    Davis has never sounded better, even though this lively trip through Bob-land is not too much like what we've come to expect from Davis: acoustic blues played with feeling and gusto. If that's what brings you back to Davis' CDs, you will not be disappointed. There's plenty of 12 string, slide guitar and grit. He throws a nice curve by doing Can't Be Satisfied on banjo.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: FUR DIXON AND STEVE WERNER

    TITLE: TRAVELERS

    LABEL: GRASS AND GRAVEL RECORDS

    RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 1, 2009

    BY CARL GAGE

    SteveFur_TRAVELERS_s.jpg

    From the opening, Journey to Another Side, imaginatively set in a Mexican cantina, to the closing, Friends Around the Fire, singing under the moonlight with good friends, this is the album that we expected from the venerable down-home Van Nuys duo. It's imaginative, entertaining, melodic, beautiful and humorous; and it's a cover-to-cover sing-along, my favorite kind of musical entertainment.

    Similar to their first collection, The Pearl and the Swine, the selections alternate between those written by Fur and those by Steve, except that this time two of Fur's were very effectively co-written by Ric Taylor. And it's also similar to the first CD, in that the ones about asphalt, dirt, engines and campfires are Steve's, while the pretty song department is well covered by Fur with If I Was Free (with Ric), My Blue Yodel and the gorgeous Summer's Gone Again.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: LA INDIA CANELA

    TITLE: LA INDIA CANELA: MERENGUE TIPICO

    FROM THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

    LABEL: SMITHSONIAN/FOLKWAYS

    MERENGUE TIPICO SLAMS RECESSION BLUES

    BY AUDREY COLEMAN

    LaIndiaCanela_s.jpg

    Tuesday is the cruelest day. On Mondays, everyone at work is strung out, wondering how the weekend went by so fast. By Tuesday, we're supposed to be in the groove again. I'm not. Driving my 30-mile commute to work, I curse the impending layoffs announced on our e-mail network (who's next???). I surf the radio stations for relief but instead hear station after NPR station dissecting the disaster known as our economy. I ride the dial in search of a musical antidote to the recession blues -- from classical to jazz to norteño to reggae. Sometimes I'm lucky.

    Last Tuesday I wasn't. The talk was more dismal than usual and the music ranged from bland to sheer noise. Then I remembered the CD I still had to review for FolkWorks. Something called La India Canela. I fed it in to the morose mouth of my Corolla's CD player and.... Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Wow! Go! Yeee! Ha! The cascading keys of an accordion nearly swept my Corolla and me off La Brea Avenue. My shoulders started rolling and my hips swaying to the fast-paced, driving rhythms of tamboro and guira. Suddenly I was smiling ear to ear and the mouth of my CD player seemed to be smiling with me. Merengue tipico had rescued me from my recession(and Tuesday) blues.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: ROBIN & LINDA WILLIAMS

    TITLE: BUENA VISTA

    LABEL: RED HOUSE RECORDS

    Release Date: September 16, 2008

    By Carl Gage

    RobinLinda_s.jpg

    Buena Vista proves to be another excellent piece of work in a long line of successful efforts by this veteran team and their very fine groups. The eternal kids from the deep south, routed through Lake Wobegon, have done it again, producing a well-crafted and constructed collection of entertaining, easy-to-listen-to original music.

    Their, count ‘em, 20th album, from the front to the back was enjoyably, pretty much what we've come to expect from R&L. The opening cut Going, Going, Gone gets you bouncing, smiling and happy to be listening. Then, just as you get comfortable paying attention to the musicianship, arrangements and quality engineering, the knockout song Maybelle's Guitar and Monroe's Mandolin gets you thinking about and appreciating the origins of a lot of great music that has come our way over the years.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: FOGHORN DUO

    TITLE: LONESOME SONG

    LABEL: SELF-RELEASED

    RELEASE DATE: APRIL 2008

    By Kelly Marie Martin

    foghornduo_s.jpg

    The facts first: Foghorn Duo's Lonesome Song is an album of duets from Stephen "Sammy" Lind and Caleb Klauder of Foghorn Stringband. The songs are a first-class collection of traditional, classic country and original pieces of music drawn from the old time fiddle tunes, ballads and songs--the roots of American "roots" music. There's even a tune penned by Caleb and without looking at the cover, you'd never know. Foghorn Stringband may be in a transformative stage, but once you hear this album, you'll not doubt that these two fellas, at least, never stop playing. I mean never. And, Oh! Their voices! By far their two voices ringing together in song is so good I can think of none better today.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: ACOUSTIC WARRIOR JOHN SOTTER

    TITLE: ALONE

    LABEL: PLASTIC MELTDOWN

    RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 2009

    By Dennis Roger Reed

     

    Initial disclaimer: This gentleman records for the same label that I do. However, I did not meet him until this release, nor was I familiar with his music. I stand to gain no financial improvement should his project prove profitable or not.

     

    Sotter_s.jpg

    There is a wave (pun intended) of new "soft folk pop" artists who have surfing somewhere near their core. Though he resides in San Clemente, CA and has lived on a boat and lifeguarded for a living, John Sotter is not one of these surfing soft folk pop artists. His music has a strong flavor that resists comparison to other artists, but one might peg the production style of Alone to be Harvest- era Neil Young. It's all acoustic guitars, some occasional melodic electric bass, harmonica and unobtrusive drums. And it's all John Sotter. All the music, lyrics, instruments, the recording, production, mixing, mastering and even the artwork is all John Sotter.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: EMMYLOU HARRIS

    TITLE: ALL I INTENDED TO BE

    LABEL: NONESUCH RECORDS

    Release Date: Spring 2008

    By Susie Glaze

    emmylou_s.jpg

    "Here I go again..." begins Emmylou Harris on her luminous new album, a fitting beginning for this great artist's first new recording since 2003. Produced by Brian Ahearn, with the title taken from the lyrics of the Billy Joe Shaver song offered here, this listening experience is like coming home to an old friend you thought you'd lost: loving, gracious, soulful and full of gentle understanding.

    No one who has ever heard Emmylou can ever forget her stunning sound. Whether in the middle of a rock and roll track, a country standard, or simply with lone guitar, she can command the listener with a pure emotional presence. You feel as though she is singing just to you, and all expressions are intimate.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: MERLIN SNIDER

    TITLE: RIGHT HERE

    LABEL: BARKING DOG MUSIC (Independent)

    RELEASE DATE: January 2009

    By Carl Gage

    Snider_s.jpg

    Merlin Snider's first album Between came out in 1999 and to say the encore was a long time coming would be an understatement. Of course, to say it was well worth waiting for turns out to be belaboring the obvious. Right Here is captivating from the opening, picturesque, Central California love-song tour of Santa Cruz, to the thought-provoking hidden track No Advice at the baker's dozen point.

    He has assembled an outstanding group of musicians, authored a tremendous collection of songs, engineered an ultimately pleasurable listening experience and produced an album that will be a "must-have" for connoisseurs of the singer-songwriter, folk genre.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: KATHY MATTEA

    TITLE: COAL

    LABEL: CAPTAIN POTATO RECORDS

    Release Date: April 1, 2008

    By Susie Glaze

    coal_s.jpg

    Grammy-winning singer of such classics as 18 Wheels and A Dozen Roses, Where've You Been, Kathy Mattea says that her new album offered her a "re-education" in singing. Produced by Marty Stuart, COAL is an important work, in that Mattea brings the heartbreak and tragedy of the Appalachian coal-mining culture to the fore. And for some, especially die-hard Mattea fans, this will be an eye-opening journey into a land not heretofore travailed.

    Mattea chose the perfect producer in Stuart, whose understanding of traditional country stems from his familial connection to the original Carter Family. He is also a commercial country star and now a producer, and he's put together this album with Mattea's strengths in mind -more contemporary songs are mixed in with the old, offering Mattea a chance to shine in her pop/folk blend while giving her a chance to stretch with older classics from the early part of the 20th century.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: RANDY NEWMAN

    TITLE: HARPS AND ANGELS

    LABEL: NONESUCH

    Release Date:  August 5, 2008

    By Terry Roland

    newman_harps_and_angels_s.jpg

    It's not easy being Randy Newman. You spend years as a singer-songwriter only to find you've ended up being banned in Boston and having an army of Short People on your tail. You have classic albums like Sail Away and Good Old Boys, but does the public remember? No. Then, you disappear into the world of movie soundtracks and songs that appear at the end of movies like Toy Story. So you have two uncles who are legendary in the movie soundtrack business, Lionel and Alfred, respectively. For 25 years you write beautifully glorious soundtracks to movies like Ragtime and The Natural. But does the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences award you the coveted Oscar? No. After 14 or 15 nominations, you finally get the measly naked bald headed statue for one of those songs that comes in during the credits at the end of some kid's movie. So why you should return to your roots, the singer songwriter alone on his piano with a ragtime orchestra behind you? Because, you're Randy Newman and I'm not!

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: THE SIMPLY BURNS ARTISTS
    (CRAIK, DEWAR, HEPBURN, HEWITT)

    TITLE: SIMPLY BURNS

    LABEL: DC ASSOCIATES (Independent)

    RELEASE DATE: January 2009

    By Susie Glaze

    SimplyBurns_s.jpg

    If you've ever studied Scotland's poetry, music or theatre, the name Robert Burns will linger in your memory and consciousness as a bright flame of genius. In the liner notes to this wonderful recording of selections from the show Simply Burns, Robert Burns' poetry, prose and songs are presented as a fine project. "In January of 2008, four talented individuals came together to create an evening of song, poetry and readings in celebration of Scotland's best-loved bard, Robert Burns. Their aim was to offer an eclectic collection of material written by and inspired by Burns...designed both to entertain, and to simplify the man and his works for those who find it all a bit daunting." Simply Burns was intended originally for just a one-night show (at the Watermill bookshop in Aberfeldy, Scotland to be specific). However, after that spectacular night in the packed bookshop, they were surprised to find the show being requested through the countryside.

    Read more...  
  • Artists: Orlando "Puntilla" Rios Y

    El Conjunto Todo Rumbero

    Title: Tribute to Gonzalo Asencio, "Tio Tom"

    Label: Smithsonian Folkways SFW40543

    By Audrey Coleman

    Puntilla_s.jpg

    On any night of the week, you can find a club where couples are dancing salsa with frenetic energy. But when was the last time you saw a couple performing salsa's honored ancestor, the rumba? The dance involves overtly flirtatious interplay between a man and a woman, the woman alternately enticing and protecting herself as the man tries to catch her off-guard with a vacunao -- tagging her with the flip of a handkerchief or by throwing his arm, leg or pelvis in her direction in an act of symbolic sexual contact. It makes salsa look like a minuet.

    Read more...  
  • Artist: Michael Doucet

    Title: From Now On

    Label: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

    Release Date: April 22, 2008

    Soloist: Hey Diddle Diddle, This Cat Can Fiddle

    By Joel Okida

    MichaelDoucet_s.jpg

    If you're a lover of Cajun music and especially of one of the two instruments synonymous with the genre, then get your hands on From Now On, close the doors, sit back and listen to a truly comprehensive exploration of the renowned fiddler and his music. Yes, it's Michael Doucet recorded live in the studio, stripped down, for the most part, to just the man and his fiddle and yes, he even picks up that other musical symbol of the bayou, the diatonic accordion. Throw in another seasoned fiddler and a crack guitarist and this live unrehearsed recording comes alive. Doucet often compares Cajun music to the piquant dishes of the culture and like the ubiquitous gumbo, there is truly a different rendition recipe for many a tune.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: The Holy Modal Rounders

    TITLE: Live in 65

    LABEL: ESP-Disk

    RELEASE DATE: 2008

    By Michael Macheret

    holymodalrounders_s.jpg

    Don't believe it when someone tells you "If you remember the 1960s you weren't there." I was there and I remember. I remember vividly. I don't remember the 1970s very well and I put all the effort I can muster into forgetting the 1980s. But I remember the 1960s and what I remember was the music. Those were the days before music became a corporate commodity. Of course there was formula pop music, but even the big labels were signing and recording bands that were playing music that sounded like nothing you ever heard before. The new FM radio stations became the way to hear that music. There was folk, there was rock, there was jazz, there was folk-rock, there was jazz-rock, there were sitars and bouzoukis, ragtime and jug bands - sometimes all on the same LP (for you youngsters, that's an antique vinyl platter with grooves that vibrated a needle to make sounds).

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: THE PINE LEAF BOYS

    TITLE: BLUES DE MUSICIEN

    LABEL: ARHOOLIE CD 533

    By Michael Macheret

    pine leaf boys.jpg

    The Pine Leaf Boys latest CD Blues de Musicien is the real thing. This is old style, high energy Cajun music at its finest. The collection of songs ranges from original compositions by the various band members to classics of the Cajun and Zydeco tradition.

    The band members have a significant history as well. Band member Wilson Savoy, accordion, fiddle, piano, singer and songwriter, is the son of Marc and Anne Savoy -- two-thirds of the Savoy Doucet Cajun Band. Marc is a well-known accordion maker in Eunice, Louisiana, and was one-third of the trio (along with Dewey Balfa and D.L. Menard) that recorded En Bas d'un Ch

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: Rosalie Sorrels

    TITLE: Strangers In Another Country:

    The songs of Utah Phillips

    LABEL: Red House Records RHR214

    By Barry Smiler

    rosaliesorrels_s.jpg

    What a terrific album, and how appropriate that it comes to us this way. Forty-odd years ago it was Rosalie Sorrels whose singing brought Bruce "Utah" Phillips to the attention of so many people, so it's somehow fitting that Sorrels has now recorded this heartfelt and beautiful tribute to the songs of her old pal. Phillip's recent death makes it a bittersweet occasion, and surely Sorrels didn't plan for the release to be timed in quite this way. But like the hobo who finds out where the train is going only after hopping on, when you're already aboard and rolling you might as well enjoy the ride.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: Louie Gonnie

    TITLE: Songs Of The Sacred Circle

    LABEL: Canyon Records

    By Audrey Coleman

    louiegonnie_s.jpg

    Driving up Angeles Crest Highway en route to the Haramoknga American Cultural Center, I popped Louie Gonnie's Songs of the Sacred Circle: Harmony in Eight Parts into my CD player. It seemed fitting to listen for the first time to his collection of peyote songs just before attending a performance of Native American flute players, part of the World Festival of Sacred Music. The fast-paced of shaking of a high-pitched gourd rattle opened the first song, Dreamscapes. I gazed dreamily at the craggy San Gabriel Mountains and blue sky while Louie Gonnie sang in his native Dine language, his heartfelt voice moving up and down within a small range of intervals. As I rounded the bends of the mounting highway, the music harmonized with the natural landscape.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: LISSA SCHNECKENBURGER

    TITLE: SONG

    LABEL: FOOTPRINT RECORDS

    By Barry Smiler

    lissa_song_l.jpg

    Lissa Schneckenburger is probably best known as one of the finest New England contradance fiddlers in the country. If you should happen to have the opportunity to dance to her playing you are in for a treat.

    Her lively fiddling has a magically unique way of energizing the dancers and driving the dance.

    Having said that ... this album is named Song; it isn't named Fiddling. That's because the focus here is on Lissa singing old and traditional songs from Maine where she grew up. Now, the instrumental work, by Lissa and others, is very well done, tastefully and inventively modern, quite listenable stuff. But the playing serves mostly to support the lyrics, not to stand on its own.

    Read more...  
  • Artist: The Wilders

    Title: SOMEONE'S GOT TO PAY

    Label: FREE DIRT RECORDS

    Release Date: APRIL 2008

    By Kelly Marie Martin

    wilders.jpg

    Any old-timey country album that starts out with chords that echo The Who's Talkin' Bout MyGeneration signals to me that here's a band that's talkin about mine and with that opening track Wild Old Nory from Kansas City quartet The Wilders' Someone's Got to Pay I sat up straight and pushed my hat back. The twin fiddles of the second tune Broken Down Gambler had me scratching my head, "What's this fiddle tune?" Why it's from the Skillet Lickers, and the twin fiddles of Betse Ellis and Dirk Powell certainly grab that feeling and even reminded me a little of the Red Hots complete with the "yeah" that just had to be hollered right at the end.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: SOLAS

    TITLE: FOR LOVE AND LAUGHTER

    LABEL: HITCHHIKE RECORDS

    BY AUDREY COLEMAN

    solas.jpg

    From its opening seconds of energetic fiddling, For Love and Laughter uplifts the spirit and re-enforces the reputation of Solas as a pre-eminent Irish-American band. Starting with three rousing reels in succession, the album attests to the superb musicianship of Seamus Egan (flute, tenor banjo, mandolin, whistle, guitar and bodhran), Winifred Horan (fiddle), Mick McAuley (accordion and concertina) and Eamon McElholm (guitar and keyboards). Their first album in four years, the 12-year old ensemble has enriched several numbers with instrumentals and backup vocals by the Canadian group The Duhks, who include Sarah Dugas, Tania Elizabeth, Jordan McConnell, Leonard Podolak as well as Scott Senior, Natalie Haas, Chico Huff, John Anthony and Dirk Powell.

    Read more...  
  • Artist: RALPH STANLEY II

    Title: THIS ONE IS TWO

    Label: LONESOME DAY RECORDS LDR013

    Release Date: SEPTEMBER 2008

    By Dennis Roger Reed

    ralphstaleyii sm.jpg

    To the dilettante, bluegrass is just one flavor of country. The truth is far more intertwined, though in today's radio market bluegrass is considered too country for country. Apparently no one told Ralph Stanley II about this, so he's just released a great country/bluegrass recording.

    Ralph Stanley II is the son of Ralph Stanley, the reigning patriarch of bluegrass. He's travelled and performed with his father and his father's band The Clinch Mountain Boys since he was old enough to stand, and has served as the lead singer of the group since the age of 16, filling the shoes of former leads Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Larry Sparks and of course Carter Stanley.

    Read more...  
  • Artist: MOLLY'S REVENGE
    with MOIRA SMILEY

    Title: THE WESTERN SHORE

    Release Date: Sept. 16th, 2008
    (available at CD Baby)

    By Brooke Alberts

    mollys_revenge.jpg

    With the name, Molly's Revenge you might be fooled into lumping this band in with the likes of Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphys - dishing out aggressive bar anthems and such- and you would be far from accurate. The revenge to which they refer in their cryptic name is what I tend to think of as "traddiction", or an inability to be temperate with one's desire to play Just One More Set of Tunes Before Going Home. Stu Mason (guitar, vocals, mandola) lays this out in poetic and graphic form on their website, www.mollysrevenge.com so go have a peek , if you wish...but I digress...this band plays traditional Irish and Scottish tunes along with recently composed numbers that fit well into the traditions in question. With their most recent CD The Western Shore they reveal how much they have matured as a group, and the injection of Moira Smiley on vocals is just what they needed.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: BERNIE PEARL

    TITLE: OLD SCHOOL BLUES ACOUSTIC/ELECTRIC

    LABEL: BEE BOP MUSIC

    THE BLUEST OF BLUES

    By Joel Okida

    bernie pearl.jpg

    Maybe there are two ways of getting to the essence of the blues. You could be born along the Mississippi, under a bad sign, and wind up standing at those crossroads with your guitar named Lucille. Then again, you could have dedicated your life to studying the music and playing with the musicians who generated the groundwork of the genre and thereby got under the skin of the subject. Well, Bernie Pearl isn't a denizen of the delta and as far as we know he didn't sell his soul to the devil to get him farther up the road. What he did do was commune with the blues and with many a bluesman to get to the heart of what it is and all about. True, the blues come from the African American experience, the diaspora of people who lived a life under duress and then developed a sound and lyric that reflected not only the hardship of the day, but also the comedy and error of love, work, and faith. However, communing with another's art form is also part of the American experience. And it's been said many times that the blues is a state of mind. If that's true then Bernie Pearl has had the blues on his mind and in his fret-full fingers.

    postamble();

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: JUSTIN ADAMS
    AND JULDEH CAMARA

    TITLE: SOUL SCIENCE

    LABEL: HARMONIA MUNDI WORLD VILLAGE 468076

    By Barry Smiler

    Soul ScienceSoul Science is what happens when you mix a British electric blues guitar dude, best known for pop/rock work with Robert Plant's post-Led Zep solo band, with a Gambian rifti (one-string fiddle) hotshot who's a griot from Africa but clearly conversant with mainstream Western tunes. Unobtrusive bass and percussion fills in the picture. The vibe is African, yet the supporting undercurrent is easily accessible Western-familiar pop blues. Nice stuff, well worth a listen.

    I suppose you'd call this "fusion music." Fusion music is seen as a separate category, but really, it's not. In fact, it's all there is, anywhere. Face it, all the best musicians listen to anything they can wrap their little ears around, and always have. Somebody hears something good, goes all like wow that's cool, and suddenly they incorporate those licks and sounds into whatever they do.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: ZEN BOY & KARMA GIRL

    TITLE: WHO THEY ARE
    AND HOW THEY CAME TO BE

    LABEL: INDEPENDENT

    By Terry Roland

    Zen BoyI'm driving down Route 66 with my 14 year-old twin daughters in tow. I insert this new CD into the player. I ask the girls, "How do you like this?" They roll their eyes and say, "Very retro, Dad!" I wonder...is retro an accumulation of music that has caught with us? This one sounds to me like what a Zen monk once called, "beginner's mind." I pray..."Lord, let me not take myself too seriously and help me to make less sense more of the time."

    I am only a copy, I'm fuzzy and I'm gray

    I am only a product of recent DNA

    Everyone's so serious, I just want to play

    I am only a copy of what the original say

    So, I'm looking at this new CD.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: XUEFEI YANG

    TITLE: 40 DEGREES NORTH

    LABEL: EMI CLASSICS

    RELEASE DATE: April 2008

    By Barry Smiler

    XUE FEI YANG - 40 degrees North Xuefei Yang is a classical guitarist with a twist. Yes, she has a clear affinity for the Spanish classical repertoire, and this album includes well-executed performances of works by Isaac Albeniz, Francisco Tarega, and Enrique Granados. Very pleasant stuff, this.

    But then there's that twist, and that's where things get interesting.

    About a third of the selections here are solo classical guitar arrangements of music of her native China. Xuefei Yang is originally from Beijing, and moved to Britain to study only after rising to the highest levels of Chinese classical guitar circles. Her hybrid musical training gives her the properly solid background for the re-envisioning of the Chinese repertoire she does here and on her other recordings.

    Read more...  
  • July-August, 2008

    ARTIST: JIM STUBBLEFIELD

    TITLE: GUITARRA EXOTICA

    LABEL: NATURAL ELEMENTS RECORDS

    By Barry Smiler

    Jim Stubblefield Guitarra Exotica This is very nice stuff. Jim Stubblefield plays sizzling flamenco-infused guitar, with extra helpings of steam. Who knew that this level of intense, sexy energy could come from a nylon string acoustic guitar? But Stubblefield can play him some fine tunes, hey.

    I have to confess, I didn't expect to like this as much as I do. The slickly packaged CD shows a hunky young blond rock & roll surfer-looking dude, and has a credit line for his makeup artist.

    Makeup?? And it was recorded in Castaic. Castaic??

    Well, looks can be deceiving, and as it turns out Jim Stubblefield really does have a thing or two to offer here. Yes, Guitarra Exotica's take on flamenco definitely has a rocker's sensibility, but living in LA, and exposed to all the great sounds available in this musical melting pot ... how could it not?

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: JACKIE MORRIS

    TITLE: MONEY to BURN

    LABEL: BUTTON BOX RECORDS

    By Carl Gage

    jackie morris.jpg


    This second effort by the urban cowgirl from Carpenteria shows the maturity that comes with dedication, hard work and much more than a little talent. Jackie's first commercially available offering, Where the Legends Grow Like Weeds was well received and had a few jewels like the tribute to her mother, Louise, the engaging story of The Gold Country's Turning to Wine and the beautiful songs Moth to a Flame and Right as Rain.

    Money to Burn offers its own variety of stories, tributes and enchanting melodies. The humorous and upbeat departments are well represented by Everybody Needs Some Salsa, the wry Real Short Leash and the crowd-pleaser Solitary Socks, while her father is remembered this time around in The Writing on the Wall. However, the real attractions for lovers of beautiful music are Some Things Time Can't Erase and the gorgeous Lady in Waiting.

    Read more...  
  • Artist: TIM DISMANG

    Title: HOLY ROADS

    Label: SELF RELEASED

    Release Date: MARCH 2008

    By Dennis Roger Reed

    timdismang small.jpg The intent of a recording project is usually established well before the first note is recorded. Even if all the songs haven't been composed or all arrangements finalized, there is a reason for the artist to begin. But sometimes that intent, or the result, can be changed by activities well beyond the artist's control. Thus begins Holy Roads.

    Tim Dismang is a San Juan Capistrano, California based singer songwriter. Tim's work has been very influenced by one of his idols, John Stewart. So much so that Dismang includes four of Stewart's songs on Holy Roads. So much so that Dismang uses Bob Hoke on drums and Dave Batti on bass. Both worked as Stewart's rhythm section. And Bob Hawkins, the gentleman who plays remarkable guitar on Holy Roads, ended up connecting with Stewart through Hoke and Batti due to his work with Dismang and was recording and gigging with Stewart prior to John's untimely death in January of this year.

     

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: THE FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS

    TITLE: LAST OF THE RED HOT BURRITOS

    LABEL: RSQ 4561

    RELEASE DATE: APRIL 2008

    By Dennis Roger Reed

    flying burrito2 small.jpg Hot on the heels of the Gram Parsons & The Flying Burrito Brothers Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969 release last autumn comes this import re-release of Last of the Red Hot Burritos, featuring a remarkably different Flying Burrito Brothers. These tunes were recorded live at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire and Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio in 1972.

    The Flying Burrito Brothers band on Gram Parsons & The Flying Burrito Brothers Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969 consisted of lead vocalist/writer Gram Parsons; Chris Hillman vocalist, writer and guitarist; Chris Ethridge writer and bass player; Sneaky Pete Kleinow on pedal steel guitar and Mike Clarke on drums. By 1972, FBB personnel had been altered remarkably, and the direction of the band had altered as well.

    Read more...  
  • Artist: Eliza Gilkyson

    Title: Beautiful World

    Label: Red House Records

    By Rex Butters

    eliza_gilkyson_beatiful_world_175.jpg On her new CD Beautiful World, Eliza Gilkyson lets go with her jitters and assurances on our times and the times to come. Her first new studio recording in 3 years, she still writes a line that cracks like a whip with rhythm and meaning delivered with catchy music and an expressive voice that's a pleasure to have in the ear. These are songs you can't get out of your head, and you're glad they've nested there.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: SUSIE GLAZE

    TITLE: GREEN KENTUCKY BLUES

    LABEL: SELF RELEASED

    RELEASE DATE: APRIL 2008

    By Dennis Roger Reed

    susieglaze small.jpgSusie Glaze is relatively new to the Southern California bluegrass scene, but her rise to the ranks of nationally known talent has been fairly well documented here in the pages of FolkWorks. Glaze was raised in Tennessee, and first chose the artistic path of theater. After some success in the New York stage scene, she discovered a love for bluegrass music and moved to California. First she became a member of The Eight Hand String Band, and then began her solo career. Green Kentucky Blues is her fourth solo project, and most likely the one that folks will look back to as her "breakout" recording. Don't be surprised if Green Kentucky Blues finds its way to a nomination at IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) music awards.

    Read more...  

  • ALBUM: TUMBATÚ CUMBÁ

    ARTIST: TUMBATÚ CUMBÁ

    LABEL: SURAMUSIC

    By Enrico Del Zotto 

    tumbatu_cumba.jpg

    Tumbatú Cumbá is fronted by brother and sister Nicolas Falcof (guitar,vocals, percussion) and Magalí Falcof (vocals and percussion) and includes members Julian Solarz (piano, percussion and vocals), Cecilia Fraiman (vocals), Sebastian Dezeo (electric bass) and Bernardo Ucha (percussion). The group describes itself as "Buenos Aires musicians who fuse Latin American styles and rhythms from the wide-ranging folk traditions from every corner of the continent." In their 2007 eponymous recording, Tumbatú Cumbá gives a contemporary feel to traditional Afro-Latin rhythms and explores genres that have gone through many re-births as each Latin-American generation has searched for its musical roots.

    The CD opens with Ê-emoriô, a song based on a traditional Afro-Brazilian chant, but attributed to Brazilian legends Gilberto Gil and João Donato who popularized it. With several guest percussionists and vocalists, the track is a call and response between the chorus and the rich vocals of Magalí Falcoff.

    Read more...  
  • May-June 2008

    ARTIST: I SEE HAWKS IN LA

    TITLE: HALLOWED GROUND

    SMOOTH LANDING ON SHAKY "HALLOWED GROUND"

    By Joel Okida

    ISeeHawksInLA_HallowedGround.jpg The thinking man's country ensemble, who seem to soar ever higher over the vast wilderness of hyphenated roots music bands, have released another recording, Hallowed Ground, and it admirably adds to the existing evidence that they deserve their previous acclaim.

    Yes, there is some indication that they have some kind of preternatural flower power at their disposal. However, you could eschew the acid folk, biorhythm and blues, hippie-hop, and eco-country tags because the songs that they offer are still just under the good music umbrella, psychedelic-imbued or not.

    The Rob Waller-Paul Lacques writing partnership excels at a variety of styles, covering the landscape with the eccentric to the epic. Yes, it's counter-country done with poetic flair but also digs in with relevancy and depth akin to short story collections. That they have become so good at writing and playing songs that cover such a wide variety of subject matter is now no surprise. Hallowed Ground is the fourth CD from the band and reaffirms the consistency of their efforts and expands the repertoire even more.

    Read more...  
  • March-April, 2008

    ARTIST: DAVE TRAVIS

    TITLE: 12-STRING CRAZY

    RELEASE: December 6, 2005

    CALIFORNIA'S DESERT YIELDS A ROUGH-EDGED DIAMOND OF A SINGER-SONGWRITER

    By Terry Roland

    davetravis_3-25-08.jpg

    Singer-songwriter Dave Travis is an undiscovered gem. Working as an independent artist has provided him with artistic freedom, allowing him to develop both his style and lyrical content. His new release, 12-String Crazy, is a diverse collection of songs yielding a unique, fresh and original style of Americana music combining folk, country, blues, soul, gospel and rock. His influences are clear throughout this stream of songs, but his distinctive instrumental, vocal and writing style demonstrate an artist who has a strong sense of his own voice and vision.

    Read more...  
  • May-June 2008

    ARTIST: WICKED TINKERS

    TITLE: RANT

    AND THE BEATS GO ON ...

    By Joel Okida

    wickedtinkersrant_175.jpg Some hear the clarion call of the bagpipes and the ears perk up, the heart races, and the sonority reverberates through the core. Even if you don't have a molecule of Celtic DNA in your spittle, everyone has a reaction to the echoing exhalations of the unique bag, chanter and drone instrument. When combined with the sonorous beating of drums and the unique bellow of the didgeridoo, something primal and immediate hits the psyche. Whether it's your cup of tea or mug of grog, Wicked Tinkers provide an invitation to explore those internal rumblings, subtle or undiscovered though they may be.

    With RANT, Wicked Tinkers offer up one of their most colorful recordings. And, although there is no substitute for a live performance, pushing the volume control throttle of your sound system when listening to this recording will provide a close rendering of the group, at least sonically.

    Read more...  
  • March-April 2008

    ARTIST: JACKSON BROWNE

    TITLE:  SOLO ACOUSTIC - VOL. 2

    LABEL: INSIDE RECORDINGS

    RELEASE DATE: MARCH 4, 2008

    JACKSON BROWNE BRINGS THE MUSIC TO THE FRONT

    By Russ Paris

    jacksonbrowne_lead.jpg

    JACKSON BROWNE SOLO ACOUSTIC VOL. 2 (released on March 4, 2008 on Inside Recordings) is the second in a series of solo acoustic albums by the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Famer. Though with new songs, the format is identical to the first volume, released in 2005. Vol. 2 showcases the same sense of intimacy and live energy at Jackson's recent solo acoustic concerts: he's singing to you.

    The collection begins with a stripped-down version of Never Stop from his 2002 album, The Naked Ride Home, with Jackson on guitar. The acoustic arrangement emphasizes the words and it comes across as a beautiful love song. When Jackson sings “And when you make me smile, I'm the richest man I know, Read more...  

  • TITLE: NEW ORLEANS BRASS

    LABEL: PUTAMAYO WORLD MUSIC

    By Audrey Coleman

    new orleans brass

     

    The album is designed to honor that tradition while revealing it as an evolving genre of music. During the 1950s and 1960s, for example, some of the brass bands began incorporating rhythm and blues, jazz and funk into their sound. On Cut 5 of New Orleans Brass, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band's infectiously rhythmic rendition of It's all Over Now, featuring Dr. John in fine form, demonstrates this trend with verve. Kermit Ruffins represents the 1980s generation take on the tradition with his Rebirth Brass Band with Treme Second Line (Blow Da Whistle).

    Read more...  
  • January-February 2008

    ARTIST: CYRIL PAHINUI

    TITLE: HE’EIA

    LABEL: DANCING CAT

    By Audrey Coleman

    he_eia_cyrilpr2_175.jpgThe word He’eia refers to He’eia Bay on Hawai’i Island’s Kona coast, a place where King David Kalakaua used to enjoy on a day at the beach. In the opening musical selection of the same name, Cyril Pahinui evokes the setting with a powerful, lush interpretation of the name chant (mele inoa) for Kalakaua, with music attributed to J. Kalahiki. He’eia is one of three traditional songs for which he has created exquisite arrangements for slack key guitar.

    One of the fascinating aspects of this third solo album is the way it showcases Cyril’s stylistic gifts. He plays an instrumental version of He’eia on Cut 1 with his 12-string guitar in the C Mauna Lua tuning (C-G-E-G-A-E). Later, in Cut 6, he plays it in Atta’s C Major (C-G-E-G-C-E), creating a different mood with the change in tonal coloration and adding his own vocals. Similarly he plays O Kamawailualani (the ancient name for the island of Kaui’i) on his six-string guitar in Cut 2 and uses his 12-string guitar for the same selection in Cut 10.

    Read more...  
  • January-February 2008

    ARTIST: VARIOUS

    TITLE: THE BEST OF THE
    JOHNNY CASH TV SHOW

    LABEL: COLUMBIA/LEGACY

    RELEASE DATE: 2008

    By Dave Soyars

      It’s hard to imjohnny_cash_tv_show_cd_175.jpgagine in this hundreds-of-channels-at-the-touch-of-a-button age, but not so very long ago- during my lifetime, in fact, TV was home to very few programming choices, and any music, particularly good music, was rarely found. Variety shows like the Ed Sullivan Show would have the occasional pop act between the dancing elephants and such, and there were occasional shows dedicated to pop music, but vaudeville, rather than anything current, was the benchmark.

    So it’s all the more impressive that it was not an ambitious musician of the rock generation, which was (arguably) at its boldest artistic point, but the most successful mainstream country artist of his time that most effectively bridged the gap between musicians of various genres in the late 1960s.

    Read more...  
  • January-Feburary 2008

    ARTIST: VARIOUS

    TITLE: BANJO GATHERING 

    THE STATE OF MODERN OLD TIME BANJO PLAYING

    By Larry Rosenberg

    banjo_gathering_cd.jpgOne of the activities I enjoy most at traditional music festivals and multi-day workshops is the opportunity to thoroughly browse the pre-recorded music offerings. Those stacks of compact discs and digital video discs seem even more accessible than their vinyl and magnetic tape ancestors, and, unlike vinyl “records, Read more...  

  • January-February 2008

    ARTIST: TOM BALL

    TITLE:  SOLO GUITAR – MUSIC FROM FILMS

    LABEL: DOG BOY O5

    RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 2007

    By Dennis Roger Reed

    tom_ball_w175.jpg Blues fans know Tom Ball and Kenny Sultan as Santa Barbara’s answer to Brownie and Sonny. This came natural for Ball, since he shares Sonny Terry’s birthday of October 24.

    Ball and Sultan have been entertaining audiences all over the world since 1978.  They are known for their casual yet musically tight shows. They’ve recorded eight duo CDs, and have a long running residency at the Cold Spring Tavern in the Santa Barbara hills. Sultan was recently honored with a signature Martin guitar.

    Read more...  
  • January-February 2008 

    ARTIST: THE FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS

    TITLE: GRAM PARSONS &
    THE FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS LIVE
    AT THE AVALON BALLROOM 1969

    LABEL: AMOEBA AM0002

    RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 2007

    By Dennis Roger Reed

    flying_burrito_w175.jpg For a very brief time in 1968 and 1969, Los Angeles was the home of an almost perfect amalgamation of rock and roll, country and soul music known as The Flying Burrito Brothers. Their first recording, Gilded Palace of Sin, was a eclectic mix including recent soul hits redone in a country rock mode. Somehow The Flying Burrito Brothers were able to take songs like Dark End of the Street or Do Right Woman with their own imaginative spin while still capturing some of the essence of the original interpretations. The Flying Burrito Brothers also brought a good number of originals to the project, and each was worthy of contrast with the soul tunes. In fact, it wasn’t hard to imagine William Bell or James Carr taking a crack at Hot Burrito #1 or Hot Burrito #2. Then The Flying Burrito Brothers upped the ante, adding several Nuevo-country tunes that would have felt at home with George Jones, Buck Owens or more likely Waylon Jennings. Christine’s Tune, Sin City, Wheels: these were all steely country tunes but with hip, bent lyrics.

    Read more...  
  • January-February 2008

    ARTIST: BILL STAINES

    TITLE: OLD DOGS postamble();  

    MUSIC AS PURE AS A SIERRA CREEK

    By Terry Roland

    bill_staines_old_dogs_w200.jpgDo you ever long to get away? Sometimes, in the middle of the week, do you have an intense desire to walk in a meadow, see a shooting star, reflect on a glacial mountain, pluck an old guitar on an aged, wood front porch, or just scratch the grateful belly of an old dog? If you do, Bill Staines’ newest release, Old Dogs, provides a much-needed respite from the complexities of today’s world. He also gives a glimpse into the diversity of American experiences through which, he allows his audience to see the past in a way that informs our appreciation for the present.

    Read more...  
  • November-December 2007 

    ARTIST: JAKE SHIMABUKUROjakeshimabukuro1-175.jpg

    TITLE: HULA GIRLS & MY LIFE

    Label: HITCHHIKE RECORDS

    By Audrey Coleman

    The ukulele of Jake Shimabukuro continues to boldly go into musical territory where no uke has gone before. Shimabukuro largely left behind his traditional Hawaiian repertoire some years ago, but his exploration of the instrument’s expressive capacity remains enthralling for music lovers not attached to genres. Two fall releases, one linked to the signature dance form of Hawaii, the other reaching out to vintage pop, deserve attention.

    In the EP recording My Life, the virtuoso offers beautiful, heartfelt arrangements of six of his favorite tunes. He treats the work of Sarah McLachlan, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and Cyndi Lauper with respect while integrating his unique interpretations.

    Read more...  
  • November-December 2007

    ARTIST: ATHENA TERGIS

    TITLE: A LETTER HOME

    LABEL: COMPASS RECORDS

    By Brooke Alberts

    athenatergis-aletterhomelead.jpg

    Athena Tergis - San Francisco- raised Valley Of The Moon (Alisdair Fraser’s Scottish Fiddle School) denizen, three-time Junior National Scottish Fiddling Champion and principal fiddler for Riverdance on

    Broadway- has released a lovely and varied CD showcasing her clean and sprightly style with the help of some other excellent musicians. Eminent guitarist John Doyle is the producer along with providing his signature syncopated guitar and bouzouki accompaniment and arrangements. Liz Carroll, Natalie Haas and Sharon Shannon join her as well on a few tracks on fiddle, cello and accordion, respectively, along with Chico Huff on bass, Billy McComiskey on accordion, and Ben Wittman on percussion.

    Read more...  
  • November-December 2007

    ARTIST: ROBIN & LINDA WILLIAMS

    TITLE: RADIO SONGS

    LABEL: RED HOUSE

    RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 2007

    By Michael Macheret

    radio_songs-250.jpg

     

    Like many other fans of A Prairie Home Companion, I first heard Robin & Linda Williams on the radio program where they’ve been frequent guests for over 30 years. That’s what makes their newest CD “Radio Songs

    Read more...  
  • November-December 2007

    Artist: RAY BIERL

    Title: ANY PLACE I HANG MY HAT

    Label: GREASY STRINGS PRODUCTIONS GS102CD

    Release Date: NOVEMBER 2007

    By Dennis Roger Reed

    raybierl.jpgToday's world is fast moving and noisy. Pop music often reflects this, so much so that it becomes difficult to find music that isn't fast moving and noisy without succumbing to "easy listening," "new age" or "light jazz."  

    Ray Bierl's music is not fast moving or noisy, nor is it "easy listening," "new age" or "light jazz." It's folk, at its best. More back porch music than Top 10 pop.

    Though raised in San Diego, Bierl's music is best known in the Bay Area, his adopted home. Ray picked up the guitar in high school, and became enamored with folk music in the 1960s, becoming a regular on the coffee house scene. Bierl provided guitar backup for a variety of artists such as Rosalie Sorrels, Kate Wolf, and Malvina Reynolds. He also dabbled in bluegrass, and eventually took up the fiddle. He took his fiddle to work every day at his civil service job and practiced at breaks, lunch and after work. One hopes his co-workers received hazard duty pay, since the fiddle is an instrument that is difficult to master, and a painful experience for those that get to hear the progress.

    Read more...  
  • November-December 2007

    ARTISTS: BREANNDAN BEGLEY
    AND CAOIMHIN O'RAGHALLAIGH

    TITLE: FYH

    LABEL: FYH (STATE OF CHASSIS, 2007)

    (currently available only at concerts -therefore not Pure Unobtanium!-but soon available from CDBaby

    APOTHEOSIS OF THE POLKA AND JIGS TO HAUNT YOUR DREAMS

    By Brooke Alberts

    BREANNDAN BEGLEY AND CAOIMHIN O'RAGHALLAIGH “A moment of madness is better than a life of logic.

    Read more...  
  • November-December 2007

    ARTIST: MARTIN SIMPSON

    TITLE: PRODIGAL SON

    LABEL: TOPIC RECORDS

    By Brooke Alberts

    martin_simpson-lead.jpg

    Martin Simpson has long been one of my favorite guitarists. I love his sense of timing.  The fluidity of his picking conjures for me cascades and swirling eddies that buoy up the melody. What wonderful control he has- and he’s not afraid to just let it ring, either.

    He starts off with a few ballads that have made their way to America- Batchelor’s Hall and an instrumental version of Pretty Crowing Chicken on the banjo, (both of which were collected by folklorist/musician/photographer John Cohen in the 1960s,) and Lakes of Champlain, a version of the Irish Lakes of Coolfinn. They are enhanced by the gentle cello and concertina accompaniments by Barry Phillips and Alistair Anderson, respectively.

    Read more...  
  • November-December 2007

    case_asfarasyoucanget150px.jpg AUTHOR: PETER CASE

    TITLE: AS FAR AS YOU CAN GET WITHOUT A PASSPORT

    Publisher: FOR NOW

    Edition: NOVEMBER 2006

    acaseforcasepetercas150px.jpg 

    ARTIST: VARIOUS ARTISTS

    TITLE: A CASE FOR CASE: A TRIBUTE TO THE SONGS OF PETER CASE

    Label:HUNGRY FOR MUSIC HFM 024
    Release Date: FEBRUARY 2006

     

    petercase_letusnowpraise150px.jpgARTIST: PETER CASE

    TITLE: LET US NOW PRAISE

    SLEEPY JOHN

    Label: EP ROCK RECORDSYEP 2160

    Release Date: AUGUST 2007

     

    By Dennis Roger Reed

    Sometimes we ignore our own backyard, musically speaking. We don’t truly respect the talent we have in our own community or we can’t grasp them as STARS. Peter Case is a case in point. (Not only a bad pun but also the kind of hackneyed redundancy that has made the print media what we are today.) Case has spent most of his career based in Southern California, and has long garnered the respect (and awe) of his fellow musicians. His work has been regaled by the critics, but for the most part “mainstream success” has eluded him. Case is a remarkably prolific artist, his work gifted with a rich, storytelling aspect that make comparisons with prose writers such as Raymond Carter or Cornell Woolrich every bit as appropriate as comparisons with great storytelling songwriters like Guy Clark or Sleepy John Estes.

    Read more...  
  • November-December 2007

    Artist: Angélique Kidjo

    Title: Oyaya!

    Label: Columbia Records

    Say you've got to move and you've misplaced your energy supplements? No problem.  anglique_kidjo.jpgPop on Oyaya! and crank up the volume.  You'll soon be doing all the moving you need to do - and I mean "moving" from taking all your stuff from here to there as well as "moving" your body to the groove.

    From the first staccato hits on the snare drum, introducing some deliciously dexterous acoustic guitar work, followed quickly by some smoking slides on electric bass, the sense that you are in for an energetic ride becomes clear.  Though she is not a very big person, Kidjo has a huge voice and enough energy to get us all to dance -  or move furniture!  You get the sense that she really doesn't need a microphone to front a band replete with guitars, several percussionists, drums, keyboards, horns and a host of backup singers.

     

    Read more...  
  • September-October 2007

    Artist: DANNY FLOWERS

    Title:  TOOLS FOR THE SOUL

    Label: BRASH MUSIC BRH 0034-2

    Release Date: MAY 2007

    By Dennis Roger Reed

    dannyflowerstoolsforthesoul.jpg

    Singer-songwriters don't seem to have much of a problem bearing their souls. It's difficult to think of any subject that hasn't slipped from the pens of a confessional musician. But it's somewhat a different story when it comes to spirituality. A lot of listeners shy from recordings that mention spirituality. Many are afraid that they'll be proselytized, and of course some material isn't really spiritual as much as religious indoctrination. And, oddly, many people are far more comfortable discussing their love life than their spiritual life. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Danny Flowers is an exception.

    Read more...  
  • November-December 2007

    ARTIST: Fishtank Ensemble

    TITLE: Samurai over Serbia

    By Joel Okida

    fishtank_230.jpgThe whimsical name of the group belies the fact that these musicians play hard, fast, and serious. There’s nothing fishy about them. In fact, there’s no slouching or mannered excesses, as Fishtank Ensemble comes armed, loaded and ready to serve you up a platter of intense nearly cosmic gypsy music. Their latest CD release, Samurai Over Serbia, samples the global plain that is the group’s playing field. Like the gypsies, it crosses borders, villages, continents, and time periods showcasing the varied instrumental prowess of each member and the extreme range of vocalist, Ursula Knudson who also can double up on violin, banjolele and the musical saw.

    Read more...  
  • September-October 2007    

    ARTIST: PINT & DALE (WILLIAM PINT AND FELICIA DALE)

    TITLE: THE SET OF THE SAIL

    LABEL: WATERBUG

    RELEASE DATE: JUNE 2007

    BY MICHAEL MACHERET

    setofthesail-175.gif Following the oldest of musical traditions, Pint & Dale have gathered a number of great nautical-themed songs in their travels. Their latest CD The Set of the Sail features songs, both traditional and contemporary, they've collected in their travels to England.

    Unlike some of the more traditional shanty bands, Pint & Dale dress up traditional songs with updated musical arrangements reminiscent of some of the better bands of the 1960s folk music revival but the sound is fresh and current. Felicia Dale plays the hurdy-gurdy, fiddle, whistles and bodhran. William Pint plays guitar and mandolin. Felicia Dale's hurdy-gurdy has a prominent role on this CD and it sounds like she has added a new dimension to her playing on that instrument giving it more of a leading role than on previous recordings.

    Read more...  
  • September-October 2007

    Artist: KEOLA BEAMER

    Title: KA HIKINA O KA HAU (THE COMING OF THE SNOW)

    Label: DANCING CAT

    By Audrey Coleman

    keola_beamer.jpg

    Ka Hikina O Ka Hau represents a new exploration with slack key guitar by one of the foremost contributors to the Hawaiian musical renaissance that began in the 1970's. Keola Beamer applies traditional slack-key tunings to both traditional and classical material, collaborating with pianist-record producer George Winston and guitarist-arranger Daniel O'Donoghue to create an album of delicate beauty. In most of the pieces, Beamer plays all the guitars through the magic of overdubbing.

    Read more...  
  • September-October 2007  

    ARTIST: RAIATEA HELM

    TITLE: HAWAIIAN BLOSSOM

    LABEL: MOUNTAIN APPLE COMPANY

    RELEASE DATE: JUNE 2007

    BY MICHAEL MACHERET

    hawaiianblossomcd_cover.jpgIt seems that Raiatea has grown up. Not to say that her voice has changed - she still has the sweetest voice you can imagine. Raiatea's first CD was recorded in 2003 when she was 17 years old. While that may be the norm for pop bands, the Hawaiian traditional music scene is usually dominated by more seasoned musicians. This makes it even more remarkable that she has captured numerous prestigious awards from the start: receiving the Na Hoku awards for her debut (given by the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Artists) for both Most Promising Artist and Female Vocalist of the Year in 2003. Her second CD Sweet and Lovely released in 2004 again won her the Na Hoku Female Vocalist of the Year plus Favorite Entertainer of the Year in 2005 plus four other Na Hoku awards. When she was nominated for a Grammy for her second CD, the New York Times called the recording "poised and utterly elegant."

    Read more...  
  • September-October 2007

    Artist: SUKHAWAT ALI KHAN

    Title: SHUKRIYA

    BY REX BUTTERS

     The soaring vocal stylings of Qawwali singers (Qawwals) transport listeners and performers tohp_sukhawat_ali_khan.jpg heights of ecstatic spiritual awareness. Like the similarly intended and better known Whirling Dervishes, the public ritual of Qawwali runs on love and desire for Divine Union. Unlike the trance dancing Dervishes, Qawwali sweats, bleeds, and screams.

    Originally from Persia, Qawwali flourished with the Chisti order of Sufis on the Indian subcontinent. A group of musicians called a party features a chorus of 4 or 5 men, a lead singer, second singer, percussionists on tabla or dholak, with the singers usually playing harmoniums, which took over from the stringed sarangis of earlier times. Qawwalis usually begin slowly with harmonium and tabla improvisation, some introductory singing by the lead, and finally the whole party joins building momentum as they go.

    Read more...  
  • September-October 2007  

    DOWN HOME WITH THE GOIN' SOUTH BAND

    BY JOEL OKIDA

    gsb___press_photo_400.jpgThere lies a musical posse scattered across the vast disparate and desperate basin and valleys of Los Angeles, men who strum along according to the book of who-cares-what's-on-the-pop-charts. From bluegrass to blues and from ballad to cowboy waltz, the varied art of the American troubadour gets a shot in the arm when a cadre of the Southland's best musicians get together and stay in one place long enough to record a sample of the Americana roots music rainbow. The Goin' South Band rounds up Rick Shea, Cody Bryant, Paul Lacques, Vic Koler, John Zeretzke, Fred Sokolow, and Rick Cunha, each taking time out from their solo and sidemen projects, and presents them as educators and purveyors of various forms of the traditional American musical songbook, not the bright lights of Broadway, but tunes that would perhaps be found down the road a piece and headed mostly southbound.

    Read more...  
  • September-October 2007  

    ARTIST: JAKE SHIMABUKURO

    TITLE: GENTLY WEEPS

    LABEL: HITCHHIKE RECORDS

    BY AUDREY COLEMANjake_live_jp_lead_175.jpg

    Jake Shimabukuro's latest release could be titled The Naked Ukulele. Except for a few bonus tracks, the Honolulu-born ukulele virtuoso has stripped away the instrumental backup used in his four previous releases to let us experience his artistic sensibility without distractions. The result is a recording of rare emotional intensity. It showcases not only his astounding technique but also his drive to explore musical genres. While the Hawaiian folk roots of the ukulele remain strong today, Jake's music pushes beyond them fearlessly.

    A haunting rock-blues-inspired riff opens the tastefully embellished version of George Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps.  After stating the melody, he creates a bridge of chord progressions and builds with a hard-driving rhythm and huge dynamics that belie the small size of his four-stringed instrument. Then he returns to the melody for a tender conclusion. During a recent interview, Jake told me that Harrison's widow expressed her appreciation of Jake's adaptation in person when he performed it in concert. In fact, Harrison was a great fan of the ukulele, collecting instruments and recordings for much of his artistic life. For that reason, too, Jake feels a bond with the late Beatle whom he never met.

    Read more...  
  • July-August 2007

    ARTIST: BOB WEBB

    TITLE: FULL CIRCLE: THE SOLO BANJO SESSIONS

    LABEL: SELF-PRODUCED

    BOB WEBB AND THE BANJO-AT LAST!

    by Monika White

    pg_11_bob_webb_foto_credit_helen_richmond_webb_200.jpg
    Bob Webb

    Bob Webb's album, Full Circle: The Solo Banjo Sessions means a lot to those of us who have been waiting many years for a recording of just Bob and the banjo. In the late 1970s, Webb abandoned old time banjo tunes for maritime music and Los Angeles for British Columbia and later Maine where he still resides. So, to have him back with this amazing album of old time banjo tunes is truly welcome since he is one of the finest clawhammer players in the country. The more you listen to his playing, the more you will appreciate his talent and mastery of the instrument.

     

    Read more...  
  • July-August 2007

    ARTIST: CAOIMHIN O’RAGHALLAIGH

    TITLE: where the one-eyed man is king

    LABEL: state OF CHASSIS  

    RELEASE DATE: 2007

    By Brooke Alberts

    Pg 11 CD Review Caoimhin.jpg

    If you are familiar withKitty Lie Over, the masterful recording of Irish traditional music by Mick O’Brien and Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh, you may have a sense of the melodious pulse that Caoimhin brings to this music. His new CD where the one-eyed man is king contains a series of jewel-like expressions that combine his sensibilities in the field of Irish traditional music with his own explorations in composition, recording, and art.This is an all-Caoimhin production, and he plays fiddle, hardanger fiddle,whistles, piano and other percussion on this recording.

     

    Read more...  
  • May-June 2007

    Artist: AMY HANAIALI'I
    Title: GENERATION HAWAI'I

    Label: MOUNTAIN APPLE

    By Audrey Coleman

    In Generation Hawaii Amy Hanaiali'i' shares Amy Hanaiali'i the rich cultural heritage passed on from her grandmother's generation to her own. Beginning with the opening song, Napua, the influence of her recently-deceased grandmother, Jenny Napua Hanaiali'i Woodd, permeates the album as it has permeated Amy's life. Beside the liner notes for the song is a picture of a youthful woman with a fresh, engaging smile, and a floral garland crowning her dark hair? The English translation of Amy's Hawaiian lyrics captures the tenderness of the granddaughter-grandmother relationship:

    Your petals are indeed delicate

    Awakened by the rains of Hina

    How I yearn to see you

    My blossom that is in eternal rest.

     As in the other songs to be found on Generation Hawaii, the melody and instrumental arrangement of Napua intertwine like the thick, fragrant, flowered vines to be found in Hawaii's forests, woven to highlight the strength and sweetness of Amy's voice.

    Read more...  
  • March-April, 2007

    Artist: Scott Miller & The Commonwealth

    Title: Citation

    Label: SUGAR HILL SUG-CD-4009

    Release Date: MARCH 2006

    BY Dennis Roger Reed

    CD Cover Image

     

    Most consumers are not surprised to see one of those “explicit lyric” stickers on the latest rap or hip hop CD. It’s a little odd to see one on a roots-rock record, but it does bring up the fact that a lot of folk music recordings probably deserve a similar sticker. The people that thought up the idea of putting warning stickers on records need a sticker too, but that’s another story. Scott Miller & The Commonwealth’s lyrics won’t cause you to pass out, and it’s easy to forget about the sticker once you are immersed in the music of Citation, Miller’s newest recording.

    Read more...  
  • Artist: CHRIS WHITLEY & JEFF LANG
    Title: DISLOCATION BLUES

    Label: ABC ROOTS MUSIC 5101155862

    Release Date: AUGUST 2006

    BY DENNIS ROGER REED

    CD Cover Image

    Chris Whitley pushed the envelope of blues music as far as any performer. His death from lung cancer in November of 2005 at the age of 45 shocked and saddened the blues music world. He was a remarkably proficient artist, reeling from solo projects to inspired collaborations such as Dislocation Blues, where he teamed with noted Australian bluesman Jeff Lang.

    Texas born Whitley released his first CD, Living with the Law, in 1991 and released 14 others by the time of his death. Some, like 1998s Dirt Floor, were primarily acoustic recordings, where others used samples, looping and distortion as part of the menu.

    Read more...  
  • May-June 2007

    Artist: JEREMY SPENCER

    Title: PRECIOUS LITTLE

    Label: BLUESTOWN/BLIND PIG BPCD 5106

    Release Date: JULY 2006

    By Dennis Roger Reed

    Most people know of the band Fleetwood Mac as a pop rock group, one of the most popular in the mid and late 1970s. There is another Fleetwood Mac that only shares two of the same members, but left a legacy arguably as strong as the later incarnation, although as an electric blues band with emerging pop overtones.

    CD Cover Image Fleetwood Mac began in 1967 as somewhat of an offshoot of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, as three of the original four members had been in the recent employ of Mr. Mayall. The former Bluesbreakers, bassist John McVie, drummer Mick Fleetwood and guitarist/vocalist Peter Green, were joined by a 19 year old blues guitarist, pianist and singer named Jeremy Spencer. Spencer had the ability to play American blues legend Elmore James' songs uncannily like James, a somewhat astonishing fact considering that Spencer was a young white Brit. Fleetwood Mac soon added Danny Kirwan as the third guitarist, and the world was their oyster for a short period of time. However, Green began to mentally unravel due to the pressures of rock success, and left the group. They soldered on for another album sans Green, but during a U.S. tour in 1971, Spencer left his hotel to visit a bookstore in Los Angeles, but did not return for that night's concert. It turned out that he had joined a sect called the Children of God, a group with which he remains affiliated to this day. Green was begged back to finish the tour, but the first incarnation of Fleetwood Mac was on the ropes. The personnel changes made by McVie and Fleetwood eventually created the pop supergroup that to many, eclipsed the memory of the first Fleetwood Mac.

    Read more...  
  • May-June 2007
    The Poetry of Diana Jones
    By Joel Okida

    CD Diana Jones
    Photo by Valri Bromfield

    The sunlight on his pretty face

    did turn my head one day

    then I was taken by his gentle voice

    but he did not look my way

    - excerpt from Fever Moon by Diana Jones
    (Remembrances of You)

     

    To see her is a picture

    To hear her is a tune

    To know her is an intemperance

    As innocent as June

     
    -excerpt from Further Poems by Emily Dickinson


     

    Read more...  
  • November-December, 2006

    Artist: JOHN ‘THE YANK' HARRINGTON

    Title: A CELTIC CENTURY

    By George Reese

    Every now and then you find a wonderful little nugget of folk music, an obscure recording of an unknown artist in some tiny shop or on some esoteric website dedicated to the preservation and promotion of folk culture. Or maybe you receive it as a gift.

    Such was the case with this 1999 CD, A Celtic Century. On first glance it looked to be nothing more than a charming local musician (in this case local to Butte, Montana), and his shot at immortality by way of a CD recording. It is much more.

    Read more...

CONCERT Reviews

CONCERT REVIEWS

  • Beauty’s Currency: Janis Ian and Tom Paxton

    Barbican, London 25.3.14

    By Rosa Redoz

    FolkWorks’ British correspondent Rosa Redoz reviews Ian and Paxton’s Together At Last Tour.

    Tom Paxton - Janis Ian posterBeauty is a strange currency. Janis Ian’s ode to a youth impoverished by plainness is a lilting bossa nova gem. Had she thought herself endowed with familiar features the art would not have been created.

    “That seat will go.” said my neighbour as I spread my coat on an adjacent spare seat in the sold out concert in the Barbican, London on Tuesday evening.

    “Have you seen Janis Ian before?” she asked me. “I did a few years ago and she was fabulous.”

    And they were; from the moment Tom Paxton and Janis Ian took to the stage with Robin Bullock on mandolin.

    “Yes we all still sing songs of hope and peace,” said Paxton after a fine opening rendition of How Beautiful upon the Mountain - the harmonies were perfect; the mandolin fills were divine and I caught glimpses of the extraordinary guitar skill Ian was to reveal as the set continued.

    Read more...  
  • David Bromberg:
    Who Put the Jangle in Mr. Bojangles?

    In Concert at McCabe’s March 16, 2014

    By Ross Altman

    David BrombergThere are guitarists, and then there are guitarists. And then there is David Bromberg, the guitarist who put the jangle in Mr. Bojangles, Jerry Jeff Walker’s hit song about Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the legendary African-American tap dancer who was for black America what Fred Astaire was to white America—the standard against which all others would be judged. But before you even heard Jerry Jeff’s voice on his signature recording, you already were captured by its descending bass-line guitar intro hook—that made you see Mr. Bojangles descending a staircase—as he did in one of his famous dance routines. It was musical magic at its finest—and the guitarist who came up with it was David Bromberg.

    To see him live at McCabe’s last night was pure acoustic artistry that comes along about as often as that great dancer—once in a generation—if you’re lucky.

    We were lucky to hear him—solo (for the most part) acoustic—just Bromberg and his orchestral vintage Martin D-28 sitting on stage in front of McCabe’s legendary microphone—where so many great musicians have now stood—and none greater than David Bromberg; if you love folk music, Bromberg is as good as it gets. And it is truly a rare pleasure to get to hear him solo; on his current tour every one of his other bookings is with his band, or at larger venues his “Big Band.” I prefer the one-man band and he gave us a very generous two and a half hour concert with one intermission, two standing ovations and three—three!—encores.

    Read more...  
  • Warmed by Rodriguez

    By Rosa Redoz

    Sixto RodriquezEventim (Hammersmith) Apollo London March 13 2014.

    FolkWorks British correspondent Rosa Redoz filed this report from Rodriguez’s new European Tour before he heads across the Atlantic to his hometown of Detroit and on to the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles on May 30.

    Turning to his band, the slightly stooped but sharp suited Rodriguez, applauded them warmly. They had just rolled through ‘Lucille’. Rodriguez’s pick had dis-attached and the lead guitarist had continued his solo while performing emergency repairs on the star’s guitar. They had not missed a beat.

    Warmth was the evening’s watchword.

    Read more...  
  • FOLK MUTANTS SPAWNED FROM CYBERSPACE COLLISIONS

    SHEL AT HOTEL CAFÉ – JANUARY 28, 2014

    By Jonathan Shifflett

    SHELA folk ensemble consisting of a violinist, mandolin player, keyboardist and beat-boxing djembe player might at first seem like a group struggling with identity. The members of SHEL filed on stage at 7 o'clock sharp, wearing casual dress, one with suspenders and another in a customized top hat. By 7:03 it was clear that they could not only play the heck out of their instruments but that they could successfully combine their varied, folk influences into a unified image. The four sisters that comprise SHEL compliment instrumental precociousness and dynamic sensitivity with folk-pop compositions. The subtle interactions of chiding glances, wry smiles and a witty exchanges were indications of the personal and musical familiarity that bonds them. As Sarah said at the start, "If you haven't guessed yet, we're sisters. And our dad is very proud, just in case you were wondering." The group visited Hollywood on the start of a tour that will take them through the Midwest, stopping over in the Virgin Islands before returning to their home state of Colorado.

    Read more...  
  • Stefan Grossman: The Picking Fool from Kicking Mule

    In Concert at the Fret House in Covina - January 25, 2014

    By Ross Altman

    Stefan GrossmanKicking Mule Records co-founder fingerpicking guitarist Stefan Grossman sashayed into the Fret House in Covina last Saturday night and burned the house down. I mean he burned it down to the ground. With fingerpicking and ragtime and blues classics by Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, Furry Lewis, Son House, Big Bill Broonzy, Merle Travis, Chet Atkins and an unspoken original tribute to the late great Steve Mann (the title song of his CD Blues for the Mann), going all the way back to the birth of the blues with William C. Handy’s St. Louis Blues. It was a night of the best guitar playing this side of Heaven, because you won’t find any of these guitar masters still alive down here on earth.

    Thanks to Stefan Grossman’s obsession with the six-string unplugged acoustic guitar, however, their music still lives—and not just lives but thrives.

    Read more...  
  • Dylan Smiled at Me

    Royal Albert Hall 11-27-2013

    By Rosa Redoz

    FolkWorks readers; it’s my pleasure to introduce you to my British correspondent, Rosa Redoz; this is her first appearance in FolkWorks. (Submitted by Ross Altman)

    Dylan - RAH PosterDylan turned and smiled at me. Bashful, happy and awkward. As near as 5 paving slabs away. As near as half a bus. He turned. I cheered and clapped .

    He’d been watching us from the bus. I got to the back entrance of the Albert Hall before seven and walking to my seats behind the stage I passed a blacked out bus. The security boy told us that he was aboard.

    An unassuming man in baggy jeans, a baseball hat, old, young probably near my age 50 or 60. He was pointed out to us as Dylan’s fixer, his PA. When I learnt this I looked at him and we shared a mother’s smile. Recognised.

    And at 7 I looked up at the dark windows. Wondering if the band were sitting nicely on the bus facing forward swapping sweets and stories, like on a Sunday school outing. Of course it must be a rock starry lounge, alone waiting to go to work. Like before teaching an evening class. Tired and anxious.

    ‘Please take your seats; Bob Dylan will be on stage in 3 minutes.’

    The security boy assured me I could still get in. He was young with a clear face and interested to learn about Dylan. Like a schoolchild being introduced to Tolstoy. At the end of the concert I saw him sitting with a handsome grey short haired Chinese American lady.

    Read more...  
  • David Brewer and Rebecca Lomnicky

    Boulevard Music, January 12, 2014

    The two worlds of Scottish fiddle & bagpipe

    By Roland Sturm

    David and RebeccaThe vast majority of Scottish bagpipers in the world today musically reside in pipe and drum marching bands; fiddlers, only in piper-less sessions. Rarely do their paths cross, but the duo of Rebecca Lomnicky and David Brewer merge these two different worlds. Currently residing in Ithaca, New York, they were on the last leg of their first West Coast US tour and I had a chance to see them at Boulevard Music on January 12. It was a terrific show and I hope they come back soon.

    The show was scheduled at relatively short notice, so few people knew about it. Being on a Sunday night early in January probably did not help with turnout, so the audience was small, but enthusiastic. Listeners were treated to an outstanding concert that I think people eventually will remember as one of the best of 2014.

    David Brewer is a multi-instrumentalist who has toured with the Scottish super-group Old Blind Dogs and with Molly's Revenge across the US, the UK, Canada, China, and Australia.

    Read more...  
  • Don McLean:
    The Night the Music Lived

    In Concert at the Saban Theatre
    in Beverly Hills - December 13, 2013

    By Ross Altman

    Don McLeanFirst we got hit on by a friendly alky who chatted us up with assurances that we were “the perfect couple; you look just beautiful together. Are you married?” We are friends, but flattery got him somewhere and Jill wound up buying him vodka—which ran up her own $4 bar tab by about $20. Welcome to Beverly Hills, where the stars come out in droves.

    I didn’t see any folk singers, except for yours truly, but if you were there, you heard a great concert from someone who used to be a folk singer and then wrote a song about “the day the music died” that vaulted him into the upper echelons of pop superstardom. You may have heard it; indeed if you have lived anywhere near planet Earth in the past four decades and change you could not very well have missed it, since even Garth Brooks performs it in concert, and sang it on the National Mall for Obama’s Inauguration.

    Read more...  
  • Tom Paxton and Tonto Ride Again

    In Concert at McCabe’s - November 23rd, 2013

    By Ross Altman

    Tom Paxton and Fred SokolowTom Paxton may be the daring and resourceful masked songwriter of the plains, but the Lone Ranger doesn’t ride alone. In his most recent concert appearance at McCabe’s last Saturday he was accompanied throughout by LA’s master multi-instrumentalist Fred Sokolow—who played dobro, banjo, guitar and mandolin to add musical depth and texture to Paxton’s deep catalogue of wonderful songs going all the back to 1960, when he came out of Uncle Sam’s Army with his first keeper—The Marvelous Toy, a children’s classic that is now also a beautifully illustrated children’s book.

    Read more...  
  • DOC’S GUITAR? STRING MADNESS HAS IT

    LIVE AT WESTWOOD MUSIC

    NOVEMBER 10, 2013

    By Ross Altman

    String Madness Arthur Rubenstein and a violinist were in Carnegie Hall for 16-year old Jascha Heifitz concert debut when his seatmate took out his handkerchief and wiped his brow. A few minutes later his seatmate took out another handkerchief and wiped his face of the sweat. A few minutes later he asked Rubenstein if he had an extra handkerchief. “It’s getting kind of warm in here, isn’t it?” he asked. “Not for us piano players,” replied Rubenstein.

    That’s how I felt in the backroom of Westwood Music yesterday afternoon, for String Madness debut performance at Fred Walecki’s legendary music store—you know—the one that set up Neil Young’s and Joni Mitchell’s guitars, not to mention Ry Cooder’s.

    It got awful warm in there, listening to acoustic guitarists Mitch Greenhill and Peter Spelman, and mandolinist Bob Applebaum. They put on a show the likes of which you might hope to see at Carnegie Hall, not your friendly neighborhood guitar hangout.

    Read more...  
  • JORDIE LANE at HOTEL CAFÉ

    October 16, 2013

    By Jonathan Shifflett

    Jordie LaneFolk singer-songwriter, Jordie Lane, performed a set of acoustic ballads last Wednesday at the Hotel Cafe. Nestled back behind the busiest strip of Cahuenga, the dimly lit venue is a cozy refuge from Hollywood bar hoppers. An attraction for high profile, low amplitude performers, it was the perfect setting for an evening of silky fingerpicking and melodic storytelling from one of Australia's rising talents.

    Adorned with a vintage Gibson acoustic, a wide-brimmed, felt hat and an exceptional half-beard, Jordie Lane appeared at first to be just another LA hipster. However, no sooner than his Aussie twang talked of Vegemite, kale smoothies and a failed attempt to recreate a Tim Horton sausage McMuffin, preconceptions of his hipster haughtiness vanished.

    Recounting his recent Canadian tour in terms of fast-food breakfast stops, he casually described a grueling tour schedule. The 26-year-old continues with an Australian tour next week with Old Time banjo songster Old Man Luedecke, playing on through the New Year and performing 55 shows in nearly 40 cities.

    Read more...  
  • Dylan From the Cheap Seats:

    CONCERT REVIEW AND MORE

    Verizon Amphitheatre in Irvine, CA - August 3, 2013

    By Ross Altman

    [Editors note: Review delayed in publishing due to vacation and memory lapse ... apologies to Ross who wrote this great review]

    DylanWilco pulled a rabbit out of the hat last night at Bob Dylan’s Americanarama Fest—all five and a half hours of it at the Verizon Amphitheatre in Irvine, CA—formerly the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre before the terminal disease of corporate naming rights turned public jewels into private billboards. Bad idea. The rabbit stole the show.

    The rabbit was Nancy Sinatra, the only female performer in the entire concert, and apparently the only one who knew what she wanted to say. Call it the redemption of Sonny Bono. It was Sonny who wrote her (uncredited) opening song—Bang Bang, (My Baby Shot Me Down). It was first a hit for Cher—echoing his parting shot to her years before the divorce—that turned into a parting gift when it hit the charts. Nancy Sinatra, like her old man, knew a good song when she heard one, and made a hit out of it as well.

    If you thought of Sonny as only the straight man in the duo, and a cheap Dylan imitator with his best-known song, I Got You Babe, think again. Cher was unquestionably the beauty—and proved by far to be the better singer and entertainer—becoming a superstar on her own—the late great former mayor of Palm Springs—where Old Blue Eyes lived—was the brains of the outfit. He designed their act, and wrote their songs.

    Read more...  
  • CONCERT REVIEW: SAUSAGE GRINDER

    Presented by FolkWorks: September 7, 2013

    By Jonathan Shifflett

    SAUSAGE GRINDERHad you walked by the Santa Monica History Museum last Saturday night, the tall glass windows would have revealed an unusual sight - four musicians surrounded by guitars, mandolins and banjos (to name a few) and an audience of kazoos playing along to Howard Armstrong's Vine Street Drag. If this didn't entice you to stay, or if you were turned off by the fact that it was, by that point, standing room only, I can say that you missed out on a program of American (and Ukrainian) string band music, performed with all of the integrity of Depression era ramblers and gamblers.

    David Bragger (fiddle, banjo, mandolin), Chris Berry (guitar, banjo, vocals), Susan Platz (fiddle, washboard, vocals) and Tim Riley (jug, washboard, bones, jaw harp, harmonica, guitar, mandolin, bagpipes, musical saw… you get the point) comprise the folk phantasmagoria that is Sausage Grinder.

    Read more...  
  • Maria Muldaur:

    The Hardest Working Woman in Show Business

    Live at McCabe’s - June 28, 2013

    By Ross Altman

    Maria MuldaurIf James Brown had a younger sister I think I just saw her. ”Don’t you feel my leg,” sang Maria Muldaur as she brought her Louisiana barrelhouse bonanza of a fifteen song set to an electrifying, teasing, sold-out crowd-pleasing close last night at McCabe’s usually sedate acoustic concert venue—“’cause if you do you’re gonna want to touch my thigh.”

    The 10:00pm show was delayed by the crush of her loyal fans to get one more picture, one more autograph, buy one more CD from the 8:00pm show, so by the time Maria Muldaur sailed into David Nichtern’s Midnight at the Oasis during the late show’s final “Big Three” it may well have been midnight at McCabe’s. It would have made for a perfect setting for her hit song from 1973, which she pointed out was forty years and forty albums ago. “You won’t need no camel,” she let the lyric out languorously, “when I take you for a ride.” Ms. Muldaur was personally responsible for a baby boomlet that year, as nine months after her recording burst onto the radio an unusual spike occurred in the number of babies born. “Glad I was able to help,” is her twinkling reply to the now forty and younger fans who think of her as the fertility goddess and tell her she was responsible for their conception. Needless to add, we all sent our camels to bed.

    Read more...  
  • Maria Muldaur
    and the Campbell Brothers

    Hot August Night at the Skirball:
    Sunset Concert Series

    August 22, 2013

    By Ross Altman

    Maria Muldaur - Campbell BrothersI love LA! But not for the reasons Randy Newman does. It has nothing to do with the beach or the blondes or Ventura Blvd or the perfect weather. No, I love LA because where else can you go to our major Jewish cultural institution and wind up at a Christian revival meeting? I kid you not; I know my people, and you could not spit without hitting a landsman at the concert I went to last night—Maria Muldaur and The Campbell Brothers Sacred Steel at The Skirball Center’s Sunset Concert Series—a beautiful outdoor venue snuggled against the rolling hills at the crest of the 405 Freeway gridlock.

    Please don’t tell my Rabbi where I was; you see I was supposed to be at another meeting across town at The Steve Allen Theatre—the Daniel Pearl Foundation’s annual Panel Discussion by journalists from countries that have no Jews and don’t recognize Israel—like Bangladesh and Pakistan (where Daniel Pearl was murdered on February 1, 2002)—moderated by—whom else—The Jewish Journal editor Rob Eshelman, where these three young reporters have been interning for a week as a part of their fellowships.

    Read more...  
  • Tom Rush: Dean of Cambridge Folk Scene

    Live at McCabe’s May 17, 2013

    By Ross Altman

    Tom RushFresh off a 50th Anniversary concert outing at Symphony Hall in Boston, where he held forth in a tailored white suit and all-star supporting cast, Tom Rush downsized it at McCabe’s last Friday night, where I caught the late show in levis and a tank top. For a band he had three guitars, his old D-28 set up for blues, his ancient D-18 for his finger-picking showdown with Merle Travis’ ghost, and his new signature model “Tom Rush Naked Lady” by Canadian online guitar retailer McKenzie and Marr, for his open-tuning masterpieces, on which he played two Joni Mitchell classics that he first introduced: Urge for Going and The Circle Game.

    He met Joni Mitchell in Detroit in the early sixties and fell in love with her and her music and started recording her songs even before Judy Collins. Musically speaking it was a match made in heaven—nobody sings a love song better than Tom Rush, or writes one either. His own standard No Regrets has had more arrangements than Beethoven’s 5th, from folk to heavy metal to hip hop.

    Read more...  
  • Discovering Jordie Lane:

    On Being John Hammond For a Day

    In Concert at The Mint

    May 13, 2013

    By Ross Altman

    Jordie LaneWho wouldn’t want to be John Hammond for a day? The man who discovered Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen? Well, that’s how I felt last night at The Mint on Pico Blvd just west of Fairfax, where folk singer Jordie Lane, newly arrived from Down Under was giving his American concert debut. He put on a great show and now I also know how it felt to be Robert Shelton at Gerdes Folk City in 1961, whose rave review alerted John Hammond to the new kid in Greenwich Village.

    Like Dylan camping out on Dave Van Ronk’s couch when he first blew into town (recounted in Talking New York on his first album) Jordie Lane also had a story to tell: he and his girlfriend (who covered her Suzie Rotolo locks with an impressive headpiece) spent their first night sinking into an inflatable bed that mysteriously developed a hole and started losing air until by morning they were flat up against a hardwood floor. Hard times in LA Town, one could almost hear the song a-birthing.

    Read more...  
  • Waiting for Sugar Man:

    Rodriguez In Concert at the Orpheum Theatre

    TUESDAY, April 16, 2013

    By Ross Altman

    RodriguezLast night I had the strangest dream—only it really happened. Something beautiful this way came to downtown Los Angeles. I waited two hours to see Sixto Rodriguez in concert at the Orpheum Theatre, but I didn’t grudge the time; Rodriguez waited forty years. I got there at 7:00pm thinking that’s when the sold out show started, since that was the only time listed on the tickets. Turned out that’s when the doors opened. Then when I got in for the 8:00pm start time there was an unlisted opening act—a very good guitarist and singer-songwriter from Denmark who had the thankless task of warming up the audience. He did a very nice half hour set, and it was another 35 minutes before Rodriguez’s band came out at 9:10pm. The audience greeted the band with a mixture of enthusiasm and frustration.

    And then, to a standing ovation, Rodriguez appeared. Like Kirk Gibson in the bottom of the 9th in the 1988 World Series opener at Dodger Stadium, he hobbled up to home plate—with the aid of his two daughters on either side—and proceeded to hit one out of the park.

    Read more...  
  • ARLO GUTHRIE

    Don’t Believe a Word He Says:
    The Lone Ranger in Concert at Irvine Barclay Theatre

    On Campus at UC Irvine

    Sunday, April 14, 2014

    By Ross Altman

    Arlo GuthrieA long lone white-haired folk singer ambled onto the stage of the Irvine Barclay Theatre at UC Irvine yesterday with the most farfetched story you ever heard. Like some women claim to have run with wolves, he claimed to have been raised by Woody Guthrie, been dandled on the knee of Leadbelly, stowed away with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and learned the blues from Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee. Don’t believe a word of it; what will he come up with next? That Woody personally taught him the extra verses of This Land Is Your Land? He didn’t even have a band with him; that proves he must be an imposter; nor his multi-generational family—all of whom just happen to be named Guthrie too.

    Sure, tell me another.

    This long-haired hippie showed up with nothing but a Gibson J-200, a Martin M-38, a strange-looking 12-string that looked like it had been stolen from a Twilight Zone set; and an even stranger-sounding 6-string tuned to open G that he played an instrumental slack-key blues on he claimed to have composed himself.

    Who is he kidding? Hey Arlo, somebody is touring this country all by himself, without Shenandoah, or any of your kids and grandkids, claiming to be you. Don’t you have a lawyer? Can’t you put a stop to this? This guy, whoever he is, put on a better show all by himself than I have heard your band do in twenty years.

    Read more...  
  • A Valentine for Janis Ian:

    In Concert at Cal Tech in Pasadena

    Saturday, March 23, 2013

    By Ross Altman

    Janis_Ian“Give me a good guitar and a place to stand,” said Leadbelly, “And I’ll rock this whole town.” The 1960s’ other Janis—Janis Ian—self-described ugly duckling from her greatest song—had two good guitars last night and a place to stand at a sold-out Cal Tech Folk Music Society Concert in Beckman Institute Auditorium, and she rocked my socks off for two full hours. Nothing loud or high up on the db meter, mind you, just exquisite finger-style acoustic guitar playing, gently flowing all over the fingerboard, with graceful chord changes that fused folk, jazz and blues idioms into a seamless whole to accompany her poetic storytelling songs from deep into her matchless catalogue.

    In between songs—which tended to reveal the dark moments in a life lived on the ragged edge of hope and despair—she regaled her passionately appreciative audience with hilarious tales from the road—including an improvised story about a tiny mouse that takes over a pirate ship—written on commission for last year’s London Olympic games.

    Read more...  
  • Willie Nelson’s America

    In Concert at Bridges Auditorium

    Pomona College, Claremont

    February 28, 2013

    By Ross Altman

    WIllie_NelsonAs long as Texas doesn’t take Willie Nelson, let them secede I say. He had the Lone Star State flag as his lone backdrop at Bridges Auditorium in Claremont (“Land of Trees & PhDs”) tonight—where he was greeted with a standing ovation before he even picked up his guitar named Trigger—after Roy Rogers' horse. “This is my horse, that’s why I call him Trigger,” he said once, and Martin picked it up and put it in the best print ad they ever did. If more music has ever come out of one guitar I have yet to hear it.

    He put on one amazing show for the students “of all ages”—who gave him an even longer standing ovation at the end of his show. And then—guess what—he stuck around for another hour plus to sign autographs in front of the stage—everything from albums to T-shirts to cowboy hats to whatever they put in his weather-beaten hands. I have never witnessed anything quite like it from an artist of his stature—Willie is the real deal—he never strikes a false note—in person, in print, on film or on record; you don’t have to ask “what was that song?” It’s in your DNA, from Whiskey River, to Crazy, to Funny How Time Slips Away, to Always On My Mind, to Night Life, to Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground, to On the Road Again. It’s the soundtrack of America for the past fifty years.

    Read more...  
  • Bonnie Raitt: Laughing the Blues Away

    In Concert at Copley Symphony Hall

    San Diego, California February 23, 2013

    By Ross Altman

    Bonnie_RaittFresh on the heels of her Grammy win for Slipstream in the Americana category Hall of Fame Folk/Blues/Rock Guitarist Singer-Songwriter Bonnie Raitt brought her airtight band, including bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson, guitarist George Marinelli, drummer Ricky Fataar and keyboardist Mike Finnigan into San Diego’s premiere concert venue last night and tore the roof off like it was a roadside juke joint on Route 66. For two hours plus she blasted the seams off the walls with her vintage Fender Stratocaster, and then knocked your socks off with tender readings of two Bob Dylan songs on her vintage double pick-guarded Guild acoustic, playing both bottleneck slide and fingerstyle guitar. Bonnie has an impressive pedigree, her father being Broadway star John Raitt, the man who played Curly and introduced Oklahoma to the stage in 1947, two years before she was born.

    Read more...  
  • Christmas Fights Back:

    Rufus and Martha Are Coming to Town

    By Ross Altman

    WainrightsHave Yourself a Merry Little…Holiday—doesn’t quite sound the same—does it? But according to Fox News self-proclaimed “cultural warrior”* Bill O’ Reilly, there is a War on Christmas—especially in Blue states like California.

    When is the last time a cashier at Whole Foods has wished you a Merry Christmas at the checkout stand? God forbid you might be Jewish—or Muslim, or Hindu, or Native American, or O’Reilly’s worst nightmare—a Secular Humanist. So as not to offend anybody therefore—except viewers of The O’Reilly Factor—they wish you the politically correct “Happy Holidays!”

    Well, fellow Christian Soldiers, Christmas is fighting back. Apparently UCLA hasn’t heard of this latest Fox News obsession and went and invited Rufus and Martha Wainwright to perform their new show Christmas 101 at Royce Hall—not one, but two nights in a row—next Friday and Saturday December 21st and 22nd at 8:00pm.

    Read more...  
  • Blind Yemen Blues

    Yemen Blues in Concert

    Royce Hall, UCLA

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

    By Ross Altman

    Ravid_KahalaniYemen Blues, an Israeli/American band from Yemen, where Jews number fewer than 500 people, a mere remnant of a once thriving population now mostly made up of Sunni Muslims, succeeded in transforming UCLA’s sedate Royce Hall into a rousing folk dance nightclub on the order of a super-size Café Dannsa last night, an amazing accomplishment since most people go to Royce Hall to sit comfortably and listen.

    Not Yemen Blues’ audience; with the encouragement of the band audience members consistently jumped up out of their seats and danced down to the front of the stage.

    Call it Israeli Woodstock; this nine-piece band had the joint jumpin’ by their second song, and never let up.

    Read more...  
  • Dead Sea Scrolls Live at Hollywood Bowl

    Bob Dylan in Concert—October 26, 2012

    By Ross Altman

    Bob_Dylan_Concert_FlyerLike an Old West Preacher, Bob Dylan came to hold his semi-annual revival meeting at the Hollywood Bowl last night, with ancient texts discovered in the Near East more than half century ago. There were questions, “How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?” There were parables, “God said to Abraham, ‘Kill me a son;’ “Abe said, ‘Man, you must be putting me on…’” There were warnings by the side of the road: “Businessmen they drink my wine/Plowmen dig my earth/None of them along the line/Know what any of it is worth.” And there were signs indicating No Direction Home. And by the way, this Hollywood Bowl was not the one north of Franklin and Highland—it had its own address: Desolation Row.

    No, it wasn’t your typical Billy Graham Crusade message, but there was a cross on the hillside, and once you have heard this preacher’s voice, you will never forget it. I was sitting in the bleachers, where the grass is plentiful (I even got a generous hit from the Canadian friends just behind me) and the limousines are few (took a bus, along with hundreds of others from the Westwood Federal Building). Brought my notebook with me, in my special thrift shop purchased Bob Dylan Shoulder Bag, along with an apple, a bag of almonds and a bottle of water—which sailed right through the very vigilant Bowl security guards at the gates. Did not stop for the $16 sushi plate on the trail up to the top of the cheap seats.

    Read more...  
  • Staff Benda Bilili

    El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles, CA

    Oct. 24, 2012

    By Tom Cheyney

    Staff_Benda_BililiFew back-stories in contemporary music rival that of Staff Benda Bilili, the one-time street players from Kinshasa who have vaulted into the pantheon of the Afropop and world scenes. Fronted by five wheelchair-bound and becrutched polio victims, the inspirational Congolese group was “discovered” in the mid-2000s by a pair of French filmmakers who went on to make a rightfully acclaimed documentary about the band, Benda Bilili, and introduced them to Vincent Kenis of Crammed Discs, known for his ongoing series of Congotronics releases. Their first album, Très Très Fort (“Very very strong”) recorded au naturel in the ramshackle Kinshasa Zoo, came out in 2009 and was followed by a rave-worthy European tour, while the film rocked the Cannes film fest the following year. Staff Benda Bilili was supposed to play a benefit concert for LA’s Grand Performances last September, but visa and other issues forced the cancellation of the show.

    Read more...  
  • Judy Collins at Walt Disney Concert Hall

    The View From the Back Row:

    It Ain’t Over Till the Clown Sings:

    February 11, 2012, 8:00pm

    By Ross Altman and Jill Fenimore

    Judy_CollinsJoan Baez’s voice was a gift of the Gods; and what the Gods give, they can take away; anyone who heard her recent performance on the PBS special, Music of the Civil Rights Movement, could not have been but disappointed at the difference between that version of We Shall Overcome and her recorded version from her second live album, back in 1964. In one an angel is singing; today she sounds like what she is—veteran of a thousand marches for freedom, and like Muhammad Ali, more than one too many championship performances. Regrettably, it sounds like her fabled voice ran into Joe Frazer.

    Judy Collins’ voice did not come from the Gods; it came from a childhood of musical training that included piano and voice lessons. And that training has held her in good stead; at Disney Concert Hall she pulled out her old favorites, from Both Sides Now to Send In the Clowns, and one still hears her early warm soprano caressing every note.

    Read more...  
  • All Steven Pinker Is Saying Is -
    Give Peace a Chance:

    The Cal Tech Lecture for the Skeptics’ Society

    October 23, 2011

    By Ross Altman

    Steven_Parker_-Better_Angles_of_our_NatureSteven Pinker has documented what John Lennon could only imagine: a world in which war is not nearly as popular as it used to be. The Harvard Psychologist and author of the new book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined(Viking Press, NYC, 2011), came to Cal Tech’s Beckman Auditorium to offer a profoundly contrary view to contemporary beliefs that we live in a more violent and dangerous world than ever before, one in which terrorists hold more cards than enlightened rationalists, one in which violence is ever-present and Thomas Hobbes’ assessment of life in nature has become the hallmark of our post 9/11 century: it is mean, nasty, brutish and short.

    In fact, argues Pinker, nothing could be further from the truth. Surveying 5,000 years of recorded history, and pre-history that has become interpretable due to archaeological science, he concludes that we live in a world marked by a measurable decline of violence of every kind: war—both between nations and civil war--genocide, murder, rape, child abuse, spousal abuse, capital punishment, torture and even corporal punishment of children. At the same time that they have declined, they have also become near universally condemned.

    “The folk singers’ dream of the 1960s,” he sums up at one point, “has all but been realized,” citing the antiwar songs of Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Phil Ochs, Malvina Reynolds, Arlo Guthrie (whose Alice’s Restaurant is quoted at length) and Country Joe McDonald, not to mention a quirky novel that celebrated its 50th anniversary this year—Catch-22—war is slowly but persistently heading toward the dustbin of history.

    Read more...  
  • Glen Campbell: True Grit

    Live at Club Nokia—October 6, 2011

    By Ross Altman

    Glen_CampbellWhen Ronald Reagan announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s he released a famous handwritten letter to the public, and then rode off into the sunset. Nancy became his public face and voice as they ventured into what their daughter Patty Davis called the long goodbye.

    Glen Campbell has made a similar announcement, but John Wayne’s sidekick from True Grit is embarking on a goodbye tour around the track before he takes another look at the sun going down. He was at Club Nokia last night featuring songs from his legendary catalog of hits as well as his new and final studio album Ghost On the Canvas.

    In the movie, you will recall, after a long, disgruntled turn as the Duke’s comic foil of a Texas Ranger, Campbell finally wins his spurs by saving Wayne’s life, not once but twice, and the second time, as Wayne pointedly and somberly observes, “after he was dead.” It turns out that Rooster Cogburn is not the only cowboy with true grit; Glen Campbell is made of the same stuff.

    Read more...  
  • Bob Dylan and a Full Moon

    In Concert at the Orange County Fair - July 15, 2011

    Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa

    By Ross Altman

    In memory of Joel Okida, fellow FolkWorks writer

    dylanDriving through Carmageddon to get to Bob Dylan’s sold-out opening night concert at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa at the Orange County Fair I finally found out what the problem was:

    They got Charles Darwin trapped out on Highway 5

    The judge says to the High Sheriff, ‘I want him dead or alive

    Either one, I don’t care’

    High water everywhere.

    (High Water Everywhere (for Charlie Patton))

    Whatever crossed my wandering mind, Bob had it covered. But it wasn’t always immediately clear: At the end of the hour and forty-five minute concert a woman in front of me asked, “What was that song just before All Along the Watchtower?” I looked her in the eye and replied, “Like a Rolling Stone.”

    She had been to five or six Dylan shows in the past few years and counted herself a real fan. So it wasn’t her ignorance or innocence showing; it was Dylan’s well-known penchant for rearranging his old songs just past the point of recognition. No matter; that was half the fun of hearing them again—to guess what song you were in the middle of before it passed you by, like catching a fast train before it left the station.

    Read more...  
  • SHAKE, RATTLE AND FOLK:
    JOAN BAEZ AT ROYCE HALL

    By Ross Altman

    joanbaez2_s.jpg

    In the summer of 1959, a barefoot, Mexican-American beatnik girl with long black hair, a short yellow dress and an acoustic Martin OO-17 guitar showed up at the first Newport Folk Festival with Bob Gibson to do a brief set. She didn't have a band, she didn't have a hit song, she didn't have a Grammy, she didn't even have a record, but Lord did she have a voice.

    Fast-forward fifty years: Short silver hair, tight jeans, biker dude Levi jacket, someone who could pass for a butch dyke showed up at Royce Hall last night claiming to be Joan Baez. And guess what? She rocked the joint. With the hottest band in folk music (or what is now called folk music), Joan plugged in her Martin OO-45 and more than held her own with lead guitarist John Doyle, Cajun fiddler Dirk Powell, bassist Todd Phillips and her son percussionist Gabriel Harris. "You go girl!" was made for nights like this.

    Read more...  
  • The Buffalo Springfield Resurrected

    Santa BarbarA Bowl June 8, 2011

    By Terry Roland

    Buffalo_SpringfieldFor this writer, it's been a 44 year journey since I last saw The Buffalo Springfield, or didn't see them I should say. During the summer of 1967 my 12 year-old self stood outside the minor league baseball stadium in Tucson, Arizona as a limousine carrying Neil Young, Richie Furay and Stephen Stills rolled into the venue. I didn't have tickets and only stood outside but marveled at seeing the three musicians appearing exactly as they did on that first album; Neil in long fringe buckskin, Richie all baby-faced with his Beatle '65 hair cut and Stephen like a rodeo cowboy with those long blond sideburns holding a cigarette with his arm leaning on the open window.

    This time was different. At the Santa Barbara Bowl on June 8th, 2011, I actually saw them on stage. It was a receptive audience for the band of veteran musicians, all in their mid-sixties now with their own musical legacy well-established. Was it to be a concert of nostalgia? Would it be a time for 'old timers to fondly reminisce? Hardly. The concert and each song was executed with a new found vision and maturity but still just as fresh and alive as nearly a half a century ago. The feeling was playful on stage with Neil dancing and the three forming circles of rhythmic motion conjuring the past into a present day celebration. It was, if anything, the dance of the buffalos; a precious and endangered species. There was

    Read more...  
  • Heritage MUSIC Festival

    By Dennis Roger Reed

    Stephanie_Bettman_and_Luke_HalpinIt’s always risky starting a new festival. It’s even more risky doing so during a bad economy. But the folks at the Heritage Museum of Orange County took that gamble, and on Sunday May 22, the roll of the dice paid off.

    First of all, the Heritage Museum of OC exists to remind folks about how OC used to be. The Museum provides a great field trip for OC grammar school students, and is also open to the public. The Museum features two historical homes, an orange grove, blacksmith shop, gardens and a “nature area”; an ideal setting for a bluegrass, folk and Americana festival.

    The performers included Stephanie Bettman and Luke Halpin, who enthralled the audience with two sets: one for kids and one for kids of all ages. A Wing and A Prayer proved that the stage was sturdy as nearly 20 musicians, including a full brass section, played standards with gusto. The Dennis Roger Reed Band played a rousing set, Rory Cloud did an impressive short solo set and the day ended with the eclectic and captivating Folding Mr. Lincoln.

    Read more...  
  • The 51st Annual Topanga Banjo-Fiddle
    Contest and Folk Festival

    If the Circle Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It!

    By Joel Okida

    Topanga_Banner Off a soon-to-be-crowded two-lane road leading into Topanga Canyon, and despite early morning watery skies and crisp winds, Apollo, the Greek God of prophecy and music, begat a sonorous Sunday. Or it was someone like him. If you had a banjo on your knee and you weren’t sleepy, this was the place you were going to: Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills. The crossroads for many grinning pickers, be they young, old, or somewhere in between, is the Topanga Banjo-Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival. This annual event rounds up those who’ve turned off the TV, put down the cellphone and turned to wood and peg, gut and hair, (okay, a little steel and nylon) and let their fingers do the talking. This is not to say that words get in the way. Out on the porch of the Railroad Stage, singers showed off a wide range of vocal styles that might cover a familiar Joni Mitchell tune, a near forgotten sacred harp song, or some gospel harmonies. And in and out of the many jamming circles that indeed jam the movie backdrop western town, the distinct puff and bleat of a harmonica elbowed in between the bowing of a fiddler or a mandolin riff- all hell bent on getting their fair share of the modal pie.

    Read more...  
  • Arlo Guthrie’s Southern Journey

    The “Journey On” Tour Rolls into Royce; April 8, 2011

    By Ross Altman

    Alices_RestaurantAs every former hippie recalls with fondness, Arlo Guthrie, heir to the best pedigree in American folk music, used to tour in a “red VW microbus.” The very vehicle that took all the garbage out to the city dump on Thanksgiving, 1967 and thus cited for littering by Sheriff Obie. Yes we all know and love Arlo's classic 18 minute and 34 seconds antiwar story song, Alice’s Restaurant.

    Fast-forward forty-four years: Arlo and his band, family and friends now tour in not one but two humongous earth-toned tour buses, with a hand-painted sixties surrealist logo for a previous “Lost World Tour” on the side. You could probably stuff a dozen VW microbuses in each one, and still have room left over for Alice’s Restaurant.

    Give me the microbus, one six-string guitar, harmonica holder and mouth harp of Arlo’s first record, put it on one side of the scale, and then put the whole kit-and-kaboodle of his current small army of touring mates, vehicles, half dozen guitars and sound equipment on the other side, and watch it fly up and kick the beam.

    Read more...  
  • Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

    By Kathleen Herd Masser

    Photos by Kathleen Herd Masser

    morethanbluehrass_March_Kick.jpgEl Celler de Can Roca in northern Spain is said to have the best and most extensive wine list in the world, occupying three books so huge they have to be wheeled to your table on a trolley. San Francisco's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, held annually in Golden Gate Park, is El Celler's musical equivalent. With 80 artists performing on six stages over a three-day run, it's an enormous auditory banquet. And it's free.

    Festival founder and funder Warren Hellman calls bluegrass and other forms of Americana artistry "simple tunes played by complicated people." The first festival, 10 years ago, was a birthday gift from Hellman to his wife. The gift keeps on giving.

     

    Read more...  
  • Highway 10 Revisited:

    Bob Dylan and His Band in Concert

    At the Citizens Business Bank Arena of Ontario

    August, 19, 2010

    By Ross Altman

    Dylan_1.jpgBig Fish is touring small pond America this summer, and his eight tour buses rolled into Ontario, California last night, in San Bernardino County. His web site, the only place in LA where the concert was advertised, is not so much a web site as a secret society of his acolytes, who follow every move, comment on every set list (all of which he varies from show to show, so that half the mystery is simply what he'll choose to sing on any given night). These are not just acolytes, which has something of a demeaning connotation, but add up to a world wide congregation for this non-preaching preacher, this non-teaching teacher, almost an alternative America waiting in the wings-the side show at the circus, like the small town he came from, Hibbing, Minnesota, in 1941.

    Read more...  
  • Two Queens, a Prince and an Earle

    A Review of Joan Baez and Roger McGuinn

     in Concert-a Play in Two Acts

    At the Queen Mary Dockside in Long Beach

    By Ross Altman, Ph.D.

    Act One

    Roger_McGuinn.jpgJoan_Baez.jpgYou know you're at a helluva folk concert when a Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer is the opening act, but there was Roger McGuinn-lead singer for the Byrds-genially opening for Joan Baez at Harry Bridges Memorial Park in Long Beach, where the magnificent Queen Mary is docked. I thought I was having an out-of-body experience when I heard the first dulcet strains of Bob Dylan's My Back Pages floating through the stratosphere toward me, but I quickly realized it wasn't an unannounced (though the thought had crossed my mind) visitation from Mr. D.

    Read more...  
  • Finger-Pickin' Good: Roy Book Binder

    Live at McCabe's June 25, 2010

    By Ross Altman

    roy_book_binder.jpgDedicated to Larry Abbott, Vietnam Veteran for Peace; thank you for the tickets!

    What would you give for Rev. Gary Davis's phone number? Roy Book Binder stumbled on it by accident when he returned to New York City in 1966 from his volunteer stint in the Navy, and heard an old black blues singer at a small club in Greenwich Village. He fell in love with the blues that night. After the show he asked the singer if he would teach him to play guitar, and was met with something less than enthusiasm. "You can steal it from me," he was told, "but I won't give it to you." Finally, though, his persistence paid off, and two nights later the singer gave him a phone number. Is that really your phone number? Book Binder asked him. "Oh no-I can't teach you-that's Reverend Gary Davis's phone number-he'll teach you for five dollars a lesson.

    Read more...  
  • TONY McMANUS IN CONCERT, BAKERSFIELD, CA 4/25/10

    SCOTTISH GUITAR ACE EXQUISITELY DELIVERS THE GOODS 

    CD TITLE: MAKER'S MARK

    (The Dream Guitar Session)

    LABEL: COMPASS RECORDS (COM 4500)

    By Leo Kretzner

    Tony_McManus.jpgI don't usually drive to Bakersfield for concerts, but was certainly glad I did a couple of Sundays ago. The hillsides along the I-5 ‘grapevine' and Tejon Pass were poppy orange and new grass green, and Tony McManus was playing at a Sunday afternoon house concert. Oh, and I was also promised dinner in addition to a few hours of excellent music - "what's not to like?!"

    There are any number of A-list guitar players out there, enough that one should pause before suggesting another name be added to it, but Tony McManus ought to make the cut handily. In two hour-plus sets he exquisitely played pieces from his native Scotland, Ireland, Spain, South Africa and the United States.

    Read more...  
  • Is This Good For the Jews?
    Arlo Brings the Whole
    Mishpuka to UCLA

    A Review of The Guthrie Family Rides Again-
    Live at Royce Hall

    April 16, 2010

    By Ross Altman

    Guthrie_Family_2.jpgBilled as "The First Family of Folk Music," my first question is, "Did Pete Seeger die?" Did Peggy? I hadn't heard. This "first family" business is somewhat disconcerting, and immediately calls to mind the Lomaxes (John, Alan and Bess), the Seegers (Pete, Mike, Peggy and her late husband Ewan MacColl, not to mention parents Charles Seeger and Ruth Crawford Seeger), and of course the Carter Family (A.P., Mother Maybelle, Sarah, June and her little known husband, the greatest country/folk singer of the 20th Century, Johnny Cash).

    Read more...  
  • Crowfoot

    at Coffee Gallery Backstage, January. 5, 2010

    By Tom Cheyney

    crowfoot2.jpgSo a Canadian, a Vermonter, and an Englishman walked into a bar.... Well not a bar in Crowfoot's case, but the performance space behind a coffee house. The trio, now based in Quebec, brought their deeply felt confluence of Irish, English, Appalachian, French Canadian, and other musics to Bob Stane's fulcrum of folk and roots in Altadena. A pretty good crowd turned out (only a handful of empty seats); you could certainly do a helluva lot worse finding a Tuesday night alternative to "NCIS," I s'pose.

    Read more...  
  • BANSHEE IN THE KITCHEN

    PETER STRAUSS RANCH

    JUNE 14, 2009

    BY KATHY BAWN AND ANYA STURM

    Banshees_s.jpg

    Celtic trio Banshee in the Kitchen came out from their homebase in Bakersfield to kick off  this summer's series of free concerts at the Peter Strauss Ranch. Sponsored by the Topanga Banjo Fiddle contest, these concerts are family events, great fun for grown-ups and kids alike. So this review is brought to you by one grown-up and one kid.

    A GROWN-UP PERPECTIVE (by Kathy)

    There are only three Banshees: Jill Egland, Brenda Hunter and Mary Tulin. It seems like there should be more of them, though, from the number of instruments you see on stage. Between them, the Banshees play hammer dulcimer (Brenda), fiddle (Brenda), piano accordion (Jill), flute (Jill), bodhran (Jill), bouzouki (Mary) and guitars of various types and tunings (Mary). They all sing, too.

    Read more...  
  • LOS LOBOS RETROSPECTIVE:

    Long on Song/Short on Story

    By Audrey Coleman

    HidalgoPerez_s.jpg

    Over 35 years ago, Garfield High School students David Hidalgo and Louie Perez began composing songs together. As Perez expressed it to the adoring audience at Torrance Cultural Art Center on Sunday, January 11, "It all started in 1970 when I went over to David's house and stayed about a year." Their collaboration evolved into Los Lobos, the Grammy-winning band from East L.A. that has traveled the world with its unique blend of Chicano rock, Tejano music, rock en Espanol, and Mexican roots music.

    So, when a small entry in South Bay's Beach Reporter announced David Hidalgo and Louie Perez of Los Lobos: Stories and Songs at Torrance Cultural Arts Center, it seemed like a rare opportunity to learn how the pair's experiences have driven the development of this home-grown musical phenomenon.

    Read more...  
  • Opa Cupa!

    with guest vocalist, Eva Primack

    Live at Boulevard Music

    By Joel Okida 

    opa_l.jpg

    As the boundaries between some countries become more strictly enforced, the borderlines continue to blur between international music. What was once considered almost the outlaw music of the gypsies is now stealing its way overseas into the American music mix by way of the internet, amalgams of expatriates, and local musicians who have traveled the caravan routes. Maybe just being a musician today is to be a gypsy of sorts, and the cyber world allows for wandering freely across musical perimeters. Exposure to what was once obscure, esoteric, lost, or dying music is now available for the masses.

    Read more...  
  • Beyond the Pale

    at Skirball Cultural Center, Feb. 4, 2010

    By Tom Cheyney

    BTP_Photo_by_Bonnie_Perkinson.jpg
    Photo by Bonnie Perkinson

    Calling Beyond the Pale a "klezmer band' would unfairly pigeonhole the Toronto-based group's big-eared take on Eastern European, Balkan, and other musics. But then, that characterization would be true of much of the klezmorim new wave, restless reinventors who honor the tradition while pushing the boundaries farther afield.

      The version of BTP at the Skirball was pared down to a quintet and featured a different accordionist than on Postcards. Percussionist/violinist Bogdan Djukic was unable to accompany the group for its California mini-tour. Milos Popovic, credited as playing squeezebox on the album, was replaced by fellow Serbian expat Dejan Badnjar, who joined the core four on stage-mandolinist/cofounder Eric Stein, bassist/cofounder Bret Higgins, violinist Aleksandar Gajic, and clarinetist Martin van de Ven.  

    Read more...  
  • Mark Fosson

    at the Un-urban Coffeehouse

    Lost and Found

    By Joel Okida

    mark fosson

    Mark Fosson's music got waylaid back in the 1970s by an unfortunate incident that slowed down a young man's climb up the industry fretboard. He lost his record and his contract when legendary guitarist, John Fahey, proprietor of Takoma records, who Fosson had signed with, was forced to sell the company to Chrysalis. But not with Fosson or his record. That event took him on a long roundabout way of getting back to those roots, but if his recent show on the Westside is any indication, the talent that Fahey noticed way back then, has never left him.

    Read more...  
  • KRIS KRISTOFFERSON
    Brings Saturday Night Magic

    to Sunday Afternoon

    October 19 Haugh Performing Arts Center, Glendora

    By Terry Roland

    kriskristofferson.jpg

    "Sometimes heroes happen when you need ‘em." Kris Kristofferson

    Sometimes, it seems, heroes and legends just kind of roll through town, quietly, under publicized and unassuming. This happened Sunday afternoon October 19 as the Haugh Performing Arts Center in Glendora hosted a concert by Kris Kristofferson with next to no promotion. Even so, the concert was filled to near capacity. Now in his early 70's, the singer-songwriter kept joking about trying to imagine it was Saturday night rather than Sunday afternoon. However, by the end of the earthy, magical show, he announced to the enthusiastic audience, they had made him feel like it was a Saturday night. This is high praise from the poet laureate of the counter-culture dusty honky tonks of the 1970s.

    Kristofferson, who has traveled with various back up musicians over the years, has decided to appear alone in the same way he did when he first appeared in Nashville and later on his first trek as a songwriter to LA's Troubadour in 1970. It was a risky but a wise move for this artist who has always performed best in the most intimate settings. It was as honest and real a performance as he has ever given in his long career. There were no fancy guitar parts, no soaring harmony vocals to cover up any limitations. There was barely even any talk between the songs. It was just Kris, the guitar, the songs and a privileged audience.

    Read more...  
  • Fur Dixon and Steve Werner at the Getty

    September 19, 2008

    By Carl Gage

    fursteve.jpg

    Who could fill up the beautiful 500-seat Harold M. Williams Auditorium at the Getty Center in the middle of the Sepulveda Pass during Friday night rush hour? Alison Krauss? Springsteen?The Pope?

    How about the local "Travelin' American Folksingers" from Van Nuys, Fur Dixon and Steve Werner? With ever-growing audiences of fans andfriends, including high percentages of bikers and fellow musicians, the popularity of this duo continues to grow by leaps and bounds. And now the regular denizens of the Friday Nights at the Getty series can be added to that fan base as they were wowed by the talent, diversity and down-home great entertainment that filled the packed auditorium.

    Read more...  
  • FOURTH SEMI-ANNUAL: FOLKTACULAR

    A HUGE SUCCESS

    By Carl Gage

    folktacular 175

    With three behind him there was no reason that the latest FOLKTACULAR held August 31st at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica should be anything less than a great evening of folk music. Robert Morgan Fisher's twice a year bash once again featured a full (eight-hour) schedule filled to the brim with some of the most talented singer-songwriters from the Los Angeles area and beyond.

    Robert opened the 2008 Labor Day showcase with a brief intro, a couple of his poignant songs and a jump into an aggressive schedule that attempted to bring another act to the stage every fifteen minutes.

    The ever-present Dave Morrison, Chad Watson with wife Pam Loe, and Freebo were joined by repeat performers Severin Browne, Paul Zollo, Piper-Grey, Dale LaDuke and Mother Nature's Army. New additions this time around included Allan Comeau, Lee Domann, Manda (Mosher), "Banjo" Fred Starner, Garret Swayne, Tim Tedrow & Terry Vreeland, Joyce Woodson and headliner Dan Bern (www.danbern.com).

    Read more...  
  • A Tale of Two Dylans:

    CONCERT review:

    DYLAN AT THE Santa Monica Civic Auditorium

    - September 3, 2008

    By Ross Altman

    dylan.jpg

    It was the best of times; it was the worst of times-a time to kill, a time to heal, a time of war, a time of peace-a time to be reminded of the greatness of Dylan's catalogue of songs, the songs that have earned him the title of "poet laureate of rock and roll," and a time to wonder whether his recent persona of rocker at the keyboards really does those songs justice.

    It was the best of Dylan; it was the worst of Dylan. But first the bad news: for those who remember Bob as the guitar-slinging, harmonica blowing troubadour of times past (extending all the way into the 90's-which is the last time I had seen a live performance) that Dylan is long gone. He has a great five-piece band, including two first rate guitarists, but at no time during the show did Bob himself pick up the instrument that defines both the folk and rock troubadour of his early and middle periods.

    Read more...  
  • LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM FINDS THE CROSSROAD OF TRIBUTE AND LOSS AT JOHN STEWART MEMORIAL CONCERT IN MALIBU (May 3rd)

     BY TERRY ROLAND

    john stewart.jpg

    If I'm missing you, then soon

    I'll be bringing down the moon

    Turning midnight into noon to keep you here

                John Stewart

     If there was ever a way pure love for a folk singer could bring back one who has passed away, the audience Saturday, May 3rd at Pepperdine's Smothers Theater in Malibu, could have brought John Stewart back to life; banjo and guitar in hand, a wry joke to tell and songs with visions of a unique and overlooked America in his voice. Unlike many tribute concerts, this one truly honored the man and his work. Through multi-media, spoken tributes, videos from the past half-century and most of all a collection of musicians who all shared the influence of this innovative folk musician and poet; a retrospective was presented encompassing, not only one man's life and art, but that of a generation and the history we have all passed through.

    For the concert opening, Timothy B. Schmidt, sauntered on-stage, fresh from an Eagle's appearance at the Stagecoach Festival in the desert. His rendition of the John Stewart/John Phillips song, Chilly Winds, set the pace for the roller-coaster of emotions to follow. postamble();  

    postamble(); Read more...  
  • March-April, 2008

    CARRIE NEWCOMER BRINGS EVERYDAY MAGIC TO MCCABE'S

    by Terry Roland

    newcomer_thumb.jpg

      Among the gifts of many a fine singer-songwriter is the ability to tell stories which bring out the ordinary miracles in the world around us. On Saturday night, March 29th, at McCabe's in Santa Monica, Carrie Newcomer brought her own brand of natural magic through song and story. A Quaker from Indiana gifted with an uncommon richness in her voice and insightful songwriting, Newcomer guided the audience through many of the songs on her new, critically acclaimed CD, The Geography of Light. The songs were straightforward and simple with an inner elegance that supported her spiritual insights and songs of compassion. For example, in the song, There is a Tree, she gives voice to her affinity for finding words for life experiences, which are sometimes beyond words. The humor-through-song of the evening was an old-time jazz styled song called "Don't Push Send." It tells stories of the now common and sometimes disastrous experience of sending knee-jerk emotional e-mails.

    Read more...  
  • November-December 2007

    The 60'S are Alive and Well in Live Show with BARRY MCGUIRE and TERRY TALBOT

    By Terry Roland

    barryterryarch-1-175.jpg"It's time to celebrate life!" These were the words of folksinger and 60's legend, Barry McGuire last Saturday night at The Coffee Gallery in Altadena, California. His new live show with country-rock pioneer, Terry Talbot of Mason Proffit is called Trippin' The 60's. It is a celebration of life in the present that draws from folk-rock era of the '60's. McGuire and Talbot have capably assembled a review in story and song that reminds us of the significance that music has played in our history and how important it continues to be today. They should know. They experienced it first-hand.

    During this show, they took the audience through a chronological bullet train of a ride through the early to late 60's. Both musicians drew from personal experiences with Bob Dylan, The Byrds, The Mamas & The Papas, John Sebastian, Janis Joplin and John Denver among others. During the concert they told stories and performed the songs that changed the lives of a generation. Included in the show were McGuire's own Green, Green that he recorded while he was in The New Christy Minstrels and his hit, Eve of Destruction. Also included in the show were Talbot's hits with Mason Proffit, Better Find Jesus and Two Hangmen. The other songs performed by the duo were Monday, Monday, Creeque Alley, Suite Judy Blue Eyes, Here Comes The Sun and a host of others.

    Read more...  
  • July-August 2007

    SOMEBODY SCREAM!!!

    PASSING A GOOD TIME AT THE

    LONG BEACH BAYOU FESTIVAL 2007

    June 22-24, 2007

    By Joel Okida

    Guyland Ledet BAYOU 2007.jpgIt's a bit of a challenge when you try to recreate a Louisiana bayou in a sprawling southern California park.   Located across the street from a harbor which embraces the Queen Mary and the Pacific Ocean on one side and a major hotel and convention center on the other, it's a stretch to imagine the rustic swamplands of the south.  You won't see a ‘gator launching itself out of the water nor will you be digging crawfish out of a muddy marsh.  The man-made Rainbow Lagoon isn't Lake Ponchartrain or even Lake Charles and nothing resembling the mighty Mississippi River snakes through the groomed green turf of the park.  However, for one weekend in June, the sounds emanating from the 21st Annual Long Beach Bayou Festival's Center (Bayou) stage can transport you and your 

    Read more...  
  • Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks

    McCabe's 4/14/07

    By Rex Butters

    NoCal city slicker Dan Hicks brought a crackling edition of the Hot Licks to the venerable show room stage at McCabe's. And, he threw the audience a substantial curve ball. Rather than performing his own substantial catalogue of beloved classics, Hicks took the sold out house on an extended history of American Folk Music. Billed on his website as "A Salute to the Folk Years," Professor Hicks read prepared historical contexts and artists' bios as song introductions, usually interjecting wry comments. On one roll call of artists, he mentioned Jean Ritchie and Richie Havens, then pointed out they weren't related.

    Read more...

BOOK Reviews

BOOK REVIEWS

  • TITLE: REVIVAL - A FOLK MUSIC NOVEL

    AUTHOR: SCOTT ALARIK

    PUBLISHER: SONGSMITH

    DATE: 2011

    By Jonathan Shifflett

    REVIVAL - A FOLK MUSIC NOVELScott Alarik's folk music novel, Revival, is a love story, folk singer how-to guide and ideological manifesto wrapped up in one. This is not a testament to the book's thickness but rather to Alarik's fluidity as a writer. A folk musician and former folk critic for the Boston Globe, Alarik uses an informed and sensitive style to capture the perspective of Nathan Warren, a folk music hero with a tragic past. Through the thoughts of the fictional protagonist, the author offers his own revelations concerning the philosophical and practical elements of folk music culture.

    The story centers around two musicians in the modern-day, Boston folk community. Nathan is a recovering alcoholic and washed up folk superstar who runs an open mic night at a Cambridge bar. Kit, a blossoming songwriter with severe bouts of stage fright, appears as the catalyst for his "Revival."

    The book trumpets codependency between the older generations and the newer. As symbols for their self-sustaining community, Nathan and Kit help each other realize their hidden potential. Seeing Nathan and Kit as allegories for their respective generations avoids the more fantastical read of the book - a older, bedraggled folk singer acquires a young, attractive lover, who fawns over his worldly wisdom. The details of their intimacy and personal growth serve to disguise the perennial truths beneath. When the two are abruptly torn apart by unforeseen circumstances, the author shatters the illusion of the surface story and lifts the disguises to reveal a greater fundamental truth.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: THE BACH UKE BOOK

    AUTHOR: ROB MACKILLOP

    PUBLISHER: MEL BAY

    RELEASE DATE: 2012

    By Jacqui Grennan

    BachUkeBook-175The Bach Uke Book is a surprisingly pleasing book for aficionados of classical music who also play the ukulele. The clean sounds of the Bach pieces arranged in fingerpicking style with some two, three, and four note chords mixed into the melody are at times reminiscent of the sounds of a harpsichord.

    While the ukulele is mostly known for its origins as a Hawaiian folk instrument, and prior to that, as a Portuguese folk instrument, the classical pieces in this book will help any musician to become familiar with the whole instrument and to work on tempos and variations within the music.

    The pieces range from easy to challenging but are not placed in the book in the order of difficulty nor is their any notation on the piece to indicate the level of difficulty of the piece. It is up to the musician to determine the level of difficulty for themselves. The more challenging pieces, such as “Minuet in F”, “Polonaise in Gm”, and “Sheep May Safely Graze”, include triplets, sixteenth and thirty-second notes and intricate phrasing.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: 150 GEMS OF IRISH MUSIC FOR TIN WHISTLE:
    WITH SUGGESTED ORNAMENTATION AND PHRASING

    AUTHOR: GREY LARSEN

    PUBLISHER: MEL BAY PUBLICATIONS

    RELEASE DATE: 2013

    By Kevin Levine

    150 GEMS OF IRISH MUSIC FOR TIN WHISTLEGrey Larsen’s third instructional book and tune collection for the tin whistle (also known as the pennywhistle) presents a comprehensive explanation of pennywhistle performance in addition to a notated selection of 150 Irish dance tunes with suggested ornamentation. Following a similar organizational structure as his first two books, the first section of 150 Gems of Irish Music for Tin Whistle offers a concise explanation of pennywhistle technique as well as more detailed discussions of ornamentation, phrasing, and tune structure. It is assumes that the reader already has a familiarity with the basics of Western staff notation.

    The 150 tunes included within Larsen’s book are divided into three groups based upon whether they are a) perfectly amenable to performance on whistle, b) non-wind in origin, or c) suitable for performance on whistles in keys other than “D,” the most common key for pennywhistles. This is a departure from the majority of tune collections, which are more typically organized by difficulty or tune type. Larsen’s choice to organize tunes in this manner, however, illustrates his commitment to developing a guide specifically for pennywhistle rather than another generic tune collection.

    Conveniently included with Larsen’s book are two audio CDs consisting of recordings of all 150 tunes notated in the collection.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: GYPSY VOICES:
    MUSIC OF PASSION, RESILIENCE & JOY

    AUTHOR: DONALD COHEN

    PUBLISHER: MUSIC SALES AMERICA

    RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 2013

    By Tom Schnabel

    Gypsy-Voices-175

    My friend Donald Cohen has written a new book about Gypsy Music called Gypsy Voices: Songs from the Romani Soul. It is his third book about music; his earlier books include Fado Português: Songs from the Soul of Portugal and Tango Voices: Songs from the Soul of Buenos Aires and Beyond.

    Like the earlier volumes, Gypsy Voices is filled with wonderful photographs, commentary on all 21 songs on the cd that comes with it, lyrics translations, and even sheet music. It’s everything that a music fan could want. It also was a labor of love, involving many difficult choices among the thousands of songs in the Roma diaspora (Macedonia, Russia, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Serbia).

    The Roma people have been misunderstood and maligned for centuries, experiencing repression and rejection wherever they went. Yet they have endured. Originally from Northwestern India, they were called “gypsies” because of their dark skin: people thought they came from Egypt. The word “gyped” as in “The salesperson gyped me…” (meaning ripped off) is an example of the negative attitude.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: THE CARTER FAMILY: DON’T FORGET THIS SONG

    AUTHOR: FRANK M. YOUNG AND DAVID LASKY

    PUBLISHER: ABRAMS COMICARTS

    RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 2012

    By Nick Smith

    Carter_Family_-_Dont_Forget_This_SongThis book is a family biography of the Carter Family, told in graphic novel form. While David Lasky’s art may be a bit cartoony for some, the story itself is fascinating. Each chapter title is taken from the title of a Carter Family song. Like Carter Family songs, the chapters are very short, with over 40 chapters in this book of less than 200 pages. Each chapter, though, gives the reader an insight into some aspect of the lives of the Carters, from patriarch A.P. on down. A.P. Carter was both a performer and a songcatcher. Unlike the more scholarly collectors of songs, he gathered them in order to perform them himself, with the result that the Carter Family sang and recorded a wide variety of short songs gathered from the oral tradition. We will never know how many he heard that he never got around to recording.

    A.P. Carter is shown in a light that is not always flattering, but which lets the reader see him as human and very interesting. His strict path of life, even at the cost of alienating his own wife and children, was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. His focus on music and on the survival of his family was so narrow that he missed much of what went on around him. The emotional disconnect between his fierce love of music and his failure to notice the same in his own daughter was heartbreaking. 

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: ITALIAN FOLK MUSIC FOR MANDOLIN (Book/CD Set)

    AUTHOR: JOHN LABARBERA

    PUBLISHER: MEL BAY PUBLICATIONS, INC.

    RELEASE DATE: 6/6/2012

    By Kurt MacInnis

    Italian_Music_for_MandolinItalian Folk Music for Mandolin is a fun and flavorful book, with lots of music carefully presented on the written page and on audio CD. Its forty tunes span a variety of Italian folk music from North to South, Sicily to Sardinia, and also from the thirteenth century to more recent time. Some of the pieces are instrumentals, and some are songs with lyrics. All of the arrangements are for mandolin and guitar and are shown in staff notation and tablature. Many of the pieces have duet mandolin or guitar parts written out, and all have suggestions for accompaniment and short descriptions of their origin and significance. The full forty tunes don’t fit on the one CD, so ten are offered as a free download at the publisher’s website. Oddly, the book doesn’t explain how to do this, but it’s easily done. The page for the book includes a Download Tab with a big red button “Download Extras.” It contains a .zip file so you will need a way to unzip it. It’s a great way to preview the book’s content. The author plays all of the instruments on the included CD, overdubbing the tracks but avoiding for the most part the “canned” feeling one-man bands can generate. The CD makes for good listening, with the playing accurate and clear but still lively and exciting.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: THE BALLAD OF TOM DOOLEY

    AUTHOR: SHARYN MCCRUMB

    PUBLISHER: THOMAS DUNNE BOOKS

    RELEASE DATE: 2011

    By Nick Smith

    Ballad_of_Tom_Dooley_-_Sharyn_McCrumbAnyone who listened to folk music during the “Folk Music Scare” of the 1950s and ‘60s probably heard the Kingston Trio version of this song, a bouncy little murder ballad about killing a woman and ending up “hanging from a white oak tree.”

    Sharyn McCrumb, longtime mystery writer, has turned her gaze on this murder ballad, taking it back to its historical roots. While many historians and folklorists have examined this case in the past, her perspective as a mystery writer has given her different insights, much like those of the mystery writer in the Castle television show. Thus, a three-minute song becomes a 300-page historical novel. It’s hard to call it a mystery when everyone knows who was executed for the killing, but a mystery it is.

    For those of you who only know it from the Kingston Trio version, sanitized and oddly altered in places, the “real” story was that of a young ex-Confederate soldier [Tom Dula, which is pronounced “Dooley,” for the same reason that Pauline is pronounced “Pearlene” in that region]. Tom was accused of murdering a young woman named Laura who was supposedly eloping with him. He and one of his other lovers [a married woman named Ann Melton] were eventually arrested and tried for the murder. He denied the murder, but once he was convicted and sentenced, he wrote a statement to clear the name of Ann Melton. His defense attorney was a famous politician and former soldier as well, a man named Zebulon Vance. After a long trial and longer appeals, Tom was hanged from a fresh built gallows, not a tree. Most of the other details in the song were added for rhyming purposes more than for historical accuracy.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: THIS COULD BE BIG

    AUTHOR: DON MORRISON

    PUBLISHER: DONMO GLOBAL ENTERPRISES

    RELEASE DATE: 2010

    By Dennis Roger Reed

    This_Could_Be_BigIs there a reason for a folk music fan from the United States to read Don Morrison’s book about the nitty gritty of the Australian music scene? Yes. Because it’s a good read, although few of us outside of Texans ever had to drive so far to a gig.

    Don Morrison has over thirty years of experience in the music business. Although his “day job” is constructing world class resophonic guitars, he’s always been a performer, and as such he’s driven the crappy vans that break down on a regular basis. He’s been lied to and cheated by promoters and club owners. He’s seen talented band members give up and float away. He’s seen success, and he’s seen failure. And through all of this, he’s been able to balance his odd profession with a keen sense of humor, and the ability to turn a good phrase.

    In the 1980s, Don ran towards the stardom light in a band called the Bodgies. After conquering their hometown of Adelaide, the boys took to the road, which is Australia can be a long road. Anecdotes about their ancient PA system or dodgy guitars will sound familiar to anyone who had tread on the band road. The burning van may not have happened to all of us, though. After Adelaide, the boys move to the big city of Melbourne. More stories, more touring, more grabbing for the brass ring. The Bodgies worked tremendously hard, played tons of gigs and yet kept having that elusive stardom just out of grasp. They rubbed elbows with the stars, and formulated a “people’s band” devoid of the trappings that most bands demanded. Rather than an exclusive dressing room, they posted a sign allowing full access to anyone.

    Read more...  
  • TITLE: ODETTA, THE QUEEN OF FOLK

    AUTHORS:  STEPHEN ALCORN

    (Conceived  and Illustrated by)

    POEM BY SAMANTHA THORNHILL

    PUBLISHER: SCHOLASTIC PRESS

    RELEASE DATE: 2010

    By Nick Smith

    odettaTold in the form of a long poem, this is the life of Odetta, and especially her childhood, which greatly shaped her music. It is aimed at children, although adults can easily appreciate the beauty of the work and the life it describes. Artist Stephen Alcorn, who had previously worked on books about Langston Hughes and other African American poetry and poets, has included pieces portraying Odetta in various ways, ranging from the mischievous to the angelic.

    So, who was Odetta, and why should kids care? Odetta Holmes learned about some of the “facts” of American life while a child in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1930s. Jim Crow laws controlled who could drink from what water fountain, or what train car you could ride. By the time her family moved to California, her family had faced the shame and degradation that was an everyday part of being “colored” in the South. In California, she noticed a remarkable thing. Discrimination still existed, but it was not the same, and not part of the law.

    Read more...  
  • May-June 2007

    BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

    The NY Times Book Review two weeks ago wrote about a new book called Faking It-The Quest For Authenticity in Popular Music (Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor).  I am about halfway through, and want to suggest it as a must read because it has a fascinating focus on the roots of folk music in the South (using John Hurt as an example) and the difficulty in defining folk music, etc. It is a fairly easy read and I think you will be very happy that you purchased or borrowed this book.

     

    Bruce.

    Newman, DeCoster & Co.

    Bruce S. Newman, Attorney at Law, CPA; Peter J. DeCoster, FCA



    Read more...

FILM/THEATER Reviews

FILM AND THEATER REVIEWS

  • All Alone with Paul Robeson:

    The Tallest Tree in the Forest

    The Mark Taper Forum - April 19, 2014

    By Ross Altman

    Tallest Tree in the Forest - Daniel BeatyWho is the real Paul Robeson? The Tallest Tree in the Forest or the biggest windbag in Los Angeles? It wasn’t clear to this reviewer last night at the opening of the new one-man play about Robeson by actor Daniel Beaty at The Mark Taper Forum at The Music Center—until half way through the performance—when he sang Zog Nit Keynmol—Never Say—the Warsaw Ghetto anthem penned by Hirsh Glick, the 22-year old Vilna poet who wrote the song upon hearing news of the Jewish resistance to the Nazi attempt to liquidate the ghetto on April 19, 1943, as a birthday present for Adolph Hitler, who was born on April 20—today, as I write this review on Easter Sunday, Hitler’s birthday.

    Read more...  
  • PASSION PLAY 2014: BOUND FOR GLORY

    Shepherd of the Hills Church, Porter Ranch, California
    Palm Sunday, April 13, 2014

    By Ross Altman

    Palm-Sunday-175“I saw Jesus on the cross/On that hill called Calvary/Do you hate mankind for what they’ve done to you?/He said talk of love not hate/Things to do it’s getting late/We’re all brothers and we’re only passing through.” A song from a Catholic hymnal? A Protestant prayer book? Not even close: it’s from Lift Every Voice, the second left wing People's Songbook of 1953, the same book that contained songs by the soon-to-be blacklisted Pete Seeger, suspected communist Paul Robeson, executed IWW troubadour Joe Hill and Dust Bowl Balladeer Woody Guthrie. It was written by a professor of Renaissance Literature at Cal State Northridge and People’s songster, Dick Blakeslee. What’s a Godless commie folk singer doing writing songs about Jesus? Maybe because Jesus was himself a textbook case of a radical misfit.

    Who said “The meek shall inherit the earth.”? Who said, “As you do unto the least among us, you do unto me”? Who said “What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul.”? Who drove the money changers out of the temple? Hint: it wasn’t Karl Marx, who wrote The Communist Manifesto in the safe confines of the British Museum’s Reading Room. So what kind of a man was Jesus?

    I wanted to find out for myself, so I figured where better than the best passion play in town, which Jill and I had the good fortune to see last night at the sold-out production of The Passion Play at Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch, with a cast of hundreds, including children, teens and adults, some of them highly esteemed Hollywood professionals. If you want to see a passion play, theirs is the production to see.

    Read more...  
  • The Book of Altman: A Review of The Book of Mormon

    At the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood

    February 5, 2014

    By Ross Altman

    An account written by the hand of Altman upon plates taken from the plates of Nephi;

    Transcribed by RA in the annum MMXIV.

    Book of MormonWhat can a folk singer say about a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical that is still playing on the Great White Way and also in various touring productions around the country, one of which thankfully landed at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, where Jill and I and Paula saw it last night, thanks to my cultured friends Jan and Jerry, who gave us 3 tickets they didn’t need. I’ll tell you what I was expecting to see, based on its creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s smash hit TV series South Park, with music and lyrics by Robert Lopez. A foul-mouthed satire of organized religion, belittling the faith of ordinary mortals and bringing to the fore the alternative views of such famous atheists as scientist Richard Dawkins, comedian Bill Maher and the late great critic Christopher Hitchens.

    Read more...  
  • INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

    THE COEN BROTHERS’ ROCKY ROAD TO GREENWICH VILLAGE

    By Ross Altman

    Inside Llewyn Davis trioThere were two versions of the Folk Revival available to viewers this evening: on PBS a rerun of John Sebastian’s hosting a program called Folk Rewind, with performances by the Kingston Trio, The Highwayman, The Limelighters, Harry Belafonte, Judy Collins and others who made folk music a commercial success in the early 1960s, and on the big screen, the long-awaited premiere of the Coen Brothers “remembrance of things past,” a film homage to the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961, when Bob Dylan hit town in the dead of winter and joined a budding revival that was to move folk music out of the fraternity circuit and into a major cultural force that fueled the civil rights and antiwar movements. Based on a character modeled on Dave Van Ronk, herein called Llewyn Davis, a young, bearded folk singer in love with traditional music who runs into a burgeoning singer-songwriter crowd with whom he is decidedly and humorously out of sync. 

    Read more...  
  • Marilyn…Madness & Me:

    An American Classic Premieres
    at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood

    October 20, 2013

    By Ross Altman

    MarilynMadness and meWho Killed Norma Jean is the title of a song by Norman Rosten and Pete Seeger, who saw Rosten’s poem in Life Magazine in 1963 and set it to music. It goes through a dark list of those who had used her in life and now stood to profit from her death—her agents, her fans, the press and the men who exploited her desperate need to be loved. Like Bob Dylan’s scorching anti-boxing protest song Who Killed Davy Moore it shows that there is enough blame to go around. But neither song singles any one out to hold accountable.

    Who really killed Norma Jean? A new play has a theory. And however incredible it may seem, I now know how the audience felt on the night of February 10, 1949 at the Morosco Theatre on Broadway for the premiere of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, as they watched a classic being born. I got to see the Sunday matinee closing performance of the world premiere of Marilyn…Madness and Me by Frank V. Furino from an original concept by Didier Bloch and brilliantly directed by Joe Leonardo at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood.

    The person driven mad in the play is not, as you might think, Arthur Miller, though he does of course play a prominent part—Monroe’s third husband. Nor is it Joe Dimaggio—her second husband—who sent fresh roses to her crypt every week until he died, and was there for her long after their marriage ended. The mad man is the nondescript narrator, who introduces himself as Tim—starring Adam Meyer—Ms. Monroe’s limousine driver.

    Read more...  
  • WILLIAM PILGRIM AND THE ALL GROWS UP:

    LIVE AT THE ICE HOUSE

    By Terry Roland

    William PilgrimThe best Americana duo in the country may be one you've never seen. At least, not yet. The regular podcast, Live at the Ice House with William Pilgrim and the All Grows Up is a living document of the growth of two artists from the streets of L.A. and Orange County to the recording studios of Hollywood where in the latest episode with they are joined by The Blind Boys of Alabama including Jimmy Carter-the oldest touring member of the group. The broadcast also brings together social commentator, writer and activist, Kevin Alexander Gray, modern artist-poet, David (Judah 1) Oliver and up and coming singer-songwriter, Josh (Lesedi Lo-Fi) Douglas. Also featured is narrator Exene Cervenka, a poet, writer, activist and musician. She is one of the founding members of L.A.'s own legendary punk band, X. It is a well-paced production directed by photographer, Scott Montgomery.

    Read more...  
  • Those Were the Days

    Greenwich Village: The Music That Defined a Generation

    A Film by Laura Archibald

    June 24, 2013 at The Grammy Museum

    By Ross Altman

    Greenwich VillageLA’s own GRAMMY Museum hosted the West Coast Premiere screening of the feel-good movie of the year, Canadian filmmaker Laura Archibald’s documentary Greenwich Village: The Music That Defined a Generation. Are you tired of seeing buildings blown up on screen? Of body counts higher than Hamlet’s last scene, and all in the first five minutes? Of explosions that prove the high tech expertise of digital computer graphics designers who have turned modern films into deafening video games? Perhaps you are ready for a break, for a reintroduction of classic storytelling as an art form, with heroes and heroines whose only weapon is a guitar and a song. I certainly was, and that’s why I enjoyed spending the evening with a gallery of artists who perform on a human scale, and speak straight to the mind and heart.

    Read more...  
  • The Voice:

    Ain’t In it For My Health:
    A Film About Levon Helm

    Directed by Jacob Hatley

    By Ross Altman

    SEE IT NOW: It’s playing at two local Laemmle Theatres this weekend, the Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, in Claremont, at 11:00am and at the Aero in a double bill with The Last Waltz on July 5th.

    Aint in it for my HealthMy voice is not one of the smooth-riding kind, wrote Woody Guthrie, ‘cause I don’t want it to sound smooth; none of the folks I know have got smooth voices, and yet they sing louder, longer and with more guts than any smooth voice I ever heard. I’d rather sound like the ash cans of the early morning, like the cowboys whooping, like the lone wolf barking.

    I think of Woody’s description of his own voice every time I hear Levon Helm, for it describes not only its timbre, but the world it expressed as none other in modern music. To me he was the Voice of America, as I wrote in my obituary last year, as surely as was Edward R. Murrow a generation before.

    His legion of fans will be delighted to see Jacob Hatley’s new film documentary Ain’t In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm.

    Read more...  
  • Hard Day’s Night: Radio Unnameable

    A Documentary Film About Bob Fass and NYC Station WBAI

    by Paul Lovelace and Jessica Wolfson

    By Ross Altman

    Radio UnnameableBroadcaster Bob Fass’s favorite four words are: “You’re on the air.” He said it to every listener who called in to his pioneering midnight show Radio Unnameable on WBAI in NYC, which he started in 1963, an amazing amalgam of the loosely scripted and improvisatory format which LA music writer Michael Simmons dubbed radio jazz.

    I saw the premiere screening last night at the Arena Cinema on Las Palmas, a fundraiser for the Pacifica Archives housed at sister station KPFK in Los Angeles. Bob Fass attended the show and answered questions after the screening. In New York he is a living legend, a therapist for the entire city over the past half-century, whom sometimes desperate listeners would call in during the wee small hours when—as Fass put it—the night people are cleaning up the effluvia of the day people, and listening to the radio for company.

    It’s a wonderful film, an epic story about a heroic life lived on its own terms, without regard for creature comforts, conventional tokens of success, or any sure knowledge that what he was doing had any value whatsoever, apart from the particular listeners who kept him on the phone sometimes for hours at a time.

    Take, for example, Mae Brussels, a conspiracy theorist during the mother of all conspiracy theories—the aftermath of the Warren Report on the Kennedy Assassination.

    Read more...  
  • Dead Man Singing:

    Searching for Sugar Man

    By Ross Altman

    Searching_for_Sugarman

    What if Elvis weren’t the King? What if it were a Chicano folk singer you never heard of? What if Dylan weren’t the Poet Laureate of Rock & Roll? What if it were a Detroit troubadour who inspired the most oppressed people in the third world to hear the Chimes of Freedom flashing? What if Nelson Mandela were not the only hero of the South African freedom movement? What if this same troubadour found himself inexplicably to have inspired a generation of Afrikaners to accept the necessity of ending Apartheid?

    Then you’d know how I felt upon coming out of the screening of Director Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching for Sugar Man. To call it a documentary begs the question; for if it is true then it is also one of the more fantastic tales since Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days or Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. But I met three of its disciples—outside the Landmark Theatre on Pico Blvd. Call them Matthew, Mark and Luke; they were so eager to vouch for the authenticity of this fabulous tale they made a believer out of me—an avowed atheist and skeptic.

     

    Read more...  
  • Phil Ochs documentary Story
    on Democracy Now

    Here is the link for the Democracy Now special, "Phil Ochs: The Life and Legacy of a Legendary American Folk Singer"
     

     
  • Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune

    A Documentary (2010) by Kenneth Bowser

    By Ross Altman

    Phil_Ochs_There_But_for_FortuneAbbie Hoffman did it with pills, Jerry Rubin walked into an on-coming car on Wilshire Blvd., and Phil Ochs hung himself on his sister’s bathroom door in Far Rockaway, New York. All founders of the Yippies—the Youth International Party that confronted Mayor Daley and the Democratic Party at the Chicago Convention in 1968 and led to the Trial of the Chicago 7. All dead of suicide. So far as we know there was no suicide pact, but in the aftermath of the long strange trip of the 1960s, a more eerie coincidence would be hard to imagine were it not true.

    Fortunately, some of the more eloquent voices of that volcanic decade made it out alive, and continue to bear witness to its courage, commitment and overzealous foibles that make it continually memorable into its half century anniversary this year. Perhaps its most eloquent voice did not, protest folk singer, songwriter, organizer and provocateur Phil Ochs, the subject of filmmaker Kenneth Bowser’s astonishing new documentary, Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune, which, for a week in August, 2010 was shown for an Academy Award qualifying run in New York and Los Angeles. before its official release in the beginning of  2011.

    In its opening frames Phil Ochs sings a song that defines his greatness as an artist, both for its musicality and its intense lyricism, While I’m Here:

    There’s no place in this world where I’ll belong when I’m gone

    And I won’t know the right from the wrong when I’m gone

    And you won’t find me singing on this song when I’m gone

    So I guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here.

    Read more...  
  • The Bad Arm:
    Confessions of a Dodgy Irish Dancer

    Written and performed by Maire Clerkin

    Directed by Dan OʼConnor

    By Brooke Alberts

    badarm_lead.jpg

    Tonight is the last chance to catch this comedic dance-driven tale of identity crisis and coming of age as an English-born Irish girl in London.Dancer/ Writer/  Choreographer Maire Clerkinʼs one-woman  autobiographical presentation is at times poignant and at times hysterically funny. She is able to channel her younger self at various stages of development and to elucidate the moments when life to her was just not fair. No longer need she hold in her feelings of inequities, she is free to entertain her audiences with them - with each incidence diffused by a humorous moment.

    Read more...  
  • ARTIST: FRED STARNER, PETE SEEGER, ROADHOG, LARRY PENN, LUTHER THE JET, RICK PALIERI AND OTHERS

    TITLE: THAT'S THE TICKET, ROADHOG: THE HOBO'S SONG

    A DOCUMENTARY FILM

    LABEL: A PATCHWORK QUILT/CINIWEB PRODUCTION

    PRODUCER: FRED STARNER

    DIRECTOR: BILL McINTYRE

    RELEASE DATE: 2009

    Hard Travelin' ("Banjo Fred" Starner's Last Ride)

    By Ross Altman

    O Henry tells a story of a vagrant who on a cold winter night deliberately gets himself arrested in order to get a warm bed and a hot meal. He should have met Roadhog, the hobo hero of Fred Starner and Bill McIntyre's new documentary, That's the Ticket, Roadhog-the Hobo's Song. He takes O Henry's premise and stretches it five hundred miles further by robbing a bank in Miami, Florida, to get into the federal health care system available to inmates of a federal prison.

    After handing out fifty dollar bills for a couple of days-thus insuring his Robin Hood status-he turns himself into the police, pleads guilty before the judge, and is sentenced to a minimum two years in what he calls "Club Fed," where he sees his first doctor in thirty years, gets tested and treated for diabetes and mental illness as well.

    Read more...  
  •   November-December 2007

    SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR:

    A REVIEW OF I’M NOT THERE

    By Ross Altman

    dylanreview.jpg

    When they made a movie about Woody Guthrie they didn’t think twice—they put in This Land Is Your Land. When they made a movie about Johnny Cash they didn’t think twice—they put in I Walk the Line. When they made a movie about Buddy Holly they didn’t think twice—they put in Peggy Sue. And when they made a movie about Ray Charles they didn’t think twice—they put in Georgia On My Mind. So I’m sure filmmaker Todd Haynes thought twice about leaving Don’t Think Twice out of his new Bob Dylan movie I’m Not There

    Read more...  
  • November-December 2007

    PETE SEEGER:  THE LION IN WINTER

    A REVIEW OF PETE SEEGER: THE POWER OF SONG

    By Ross Altman

    pspart4c_cropped.jpgIt took six actors to play Bob Dylan, but there is only one Pete Seeger. Now in the winter of his discontent, Pete is the subject of a new documentary directed by Jim Brown (who made the Weaver’s movie, Wasn’t That a Time) and executive produced by Pete’s wife of sixty three years, Toshi Seeger. It’s a love story, a folk musical, and a passionate portrait of Pete Seeger’s America all rolled into one.

    Few artists have been at the center of as many storms as Seeger, from the fight against fascism in World War II, to the cold war fight against McCarthyism and the blacklist, the civil rights, anti-war and environmental movements. Even now, the lion in winter, standing out on an icy street corner near his log cabin home in Beacon, New York, with an American flag and a peace sign, forty years after his protest song Bring ‘Em Home fired up the anti-war movement against the Vietnam War, is still singing out against the war in Iraq.

    Read more...
Monday the 21st of April, 2014. All Material Copyright © 2006-2013 FolkWorks | Home

siteground