TITLE: ANOTHER LIFE

ARTIST: BILLY KEMP

LABEL: WILLBILLY MUSIC

RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 2017

By Susie Glaze

Bill Kemp Another Life frontHave you ever heard the booming “WAOHH” of a huge ship coming into port? From the first enveloping, opening strains of Billy Kemp’s fine new album Another Life you know that something profound is coming ~ and something is, with a depth and melancholy that matches the grandness of that sound of the Harbor. This song announces to you that you are indeed near the deep water of memory: in this case the clear and deep memories of growing up in Baltimore, where much of this collection of great new story songs takes place.

Read more: BILLY KEMP - ANOTHER LIFE

TITLE: WHERE THE HEART IS

ARTIST: KATY MOFFATT

LABEL: CENTERFIRE MUSIC

RELEASE DATE: APRIL 18, 2017

UNSAFE AT ANY SPEED

By Ross Altman, PhD

Katy MoffattThere’s a new benchmark for singer/songwriter greatness, and her name is Katy Moffatt.

I discovered this evening, while driving across town, that it is unsafe to listen to her album while in motion. I put her new CD Where the Heart Is in my CD player and after every song found myself applauding, my hands off the wheel—and my car drifting over the yellow line before I could replace them and move back. It was disconcerting; I tried to keep this in mind as the CD kept playing, but every song had the same effect. Katy Moffat, like Ralph Nader once wrote of GM cars, is unsafe at any speed.

Read more: KATY MOFFATT - WHERE THE HEART IS

TITLE: ACROSS THE POND

ARTISTS: STU MASON AND JOHN WEED

LABEL: SELF PRODUCED

RELEASE DATE: MAY 16, 2017

By Steve Werner

Mason and Weed Across the Pond“I note the obvious differences between each sort and type, but we are more alike, my friends than we are unalike.” —Maya Angelou

Sometime when I was young, back around the year 1838, someone turned me onto the music of Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill. Ever since then, guitar/fiddle duo music has been high on my radar. 

Read more: MASON AND WEED - ACROSS THE POND

TITLE: THE OXYGEN GIRL

ARTIST: JENI HANKINS

LABEL: JEWELL RIDGE RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: JUNE 2017

By Art Podell

The Oxygen GirlFrom the first note she sings on her new CD, The Oxygen Girl, Jeni Hankins can’t be mistaken for anyone else. Jeni was born in Jewell Ridge, a Virginia Coal mining town in the Appalachian Mountains, yet despite her subsequent education and sophistication, she’s your best pal sharing a song and a cup at the kitchen table. Friendly, warm, West Virginia daughter, real.

Read more: JENI HANKINS - THE OXYGEN GIRL

CD TITLE: FOLK HOTEL

ARTIST: TOM RUSSELL

LABEL: FRONTERA RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 8, 2017


BOOK TITLE: FOLK HOTEL: REFLECTIONS, PAINTINGS, LYRICS

AUTHOR: TOM RUSSELL

PUBLISHER: FRONTERA PRESS (KANSAS CITY, MO)

PUBLICATION DATE: SEPTEMBER 8, 2017

Renaissance Cowboy

By Ross Altman, PhD

For Michael Simmons, il miglior fabbro.

Tom Russell - Folk Hotel CDDear Reader: This is a double review—Folk Hotel by Tom Russell is both a CD and accompanying illustrated book, with his paintings, reflections and lyrics to all the songs.

“There are 8 million stories in the Naked City,” began my favorite TV show of long ago. Here’s one: Staying up for days in the Chelsea Hotel

Writing ‘Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ for you

-Bob Dylan, “Sara” from Desire, 1976.

But Tom Russell has another; from the bar next door he imagines

Nico spooning with Bob Dylan while he is trying to finish “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.”

Who are you going to believe?

Read more: TOM RUSSELL - FOLK HOTEL

TITLE: THE STUART BROTHERS

ARTIST: TREVOR & TRAVIS STUART

LABEL: OLD-TIME TIKI PARLOUR

RELEASE DATE: JULY 2017

By Pat Mac Swyney

Stuart-Brothers-CoverTrevor and Travis Stuart were born and raised in rural, western North Carolina where the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains meet. Their hometown of Bethel (one of three in North Carolina) in Haywood County, hardly shows up on a map, but this region of greater Appalachia has long been known as a hot bed of traditional music. The twin brothers grew up immersed in this rich musical culture and have played together since early childhood, forming their first band in junior high school to play for local clogging teams and festivals. Both individually and together, the brothers have gone on to play worldwide and are especially known, and greatly admired for their tight fiddle-banjo duets. This CD/DVD release by the Old-Time Tiki Parlour is a testimony to their lifelong partnership.

Read more: TREVOR & TRAVIS STUART - THE STUART BROTHERS CD-DVD

TITLE: PHIL OCHS LIVE IN MONTREAL 10/22/66

ARTIST: PHIL OCHS

LABEL: ROCKBEAT RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: MAY 5, 2017

THE UNQUIET AMERICAN

By Ross Altman, PhD

PHIL OCHS LIVE IN MONTREAL 1966“The death of the poet was kept from his poems” ~ W.H. Auden In Memory of W.B. Yeats

“When I’m Gone” by Phil Ochs

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.

Ochs may have underestimated himself, because every few years another testament and example of his ongoing presence in our lives surfaces from the depths like a submarine.

Read more: PHIL OCHS - LIVE IN MONTREAL 10/22/66

TITLE: SONGS OF FREEDOM

ARTIST: RANDALL LAMB

LABEL: NO COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 30, 2017

By Steve Werner

SongsOfFreedom-RL cover-image“Just say the words. Tell the story. Play a little bit of guitar.” —Ramblin’ Jack Elliott

Buellton California’s resident folksinger-songwriter is not trying to change the music business, or even really trying to be a part of it. He just does his own thing in his own time. Recorded simply, in his garage, (No Commercial Potential World Headquarters) playing and singing at the same time, without a click track or Autotune, Lamb creates earthy, honest country-folk music rooted deeply in the tradition of Woody Guthrie, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Cisco Houston. In today’s climate of mind-bending sonic overproduction, Lamb’s simple DIY recordings are refreshing and maybe even a little revolutionary in their own humble and folkie way.

Read more: RANDALL LAMB - SONGS OF FREEDOM

TITLE: THE SKELETON KEYS

ARTIST: SPENCER & RAINS

LABEL: OLD-TIME TIKI PARLOUR

RELEASE DATE: JULY 2017

By Pat Mac Swyney

skeleton-keys-coverWhen I was asked to review Spencer & Rains CD/DVD release The Spotted Pony last year, I was neck deep in my own journey absorbing early Appalachian music and not knowing much beyond “contest-style” Texas fiddling, was not particularly interested. That said, I gave it a listen and was instantly, for lack of a better word, “smitten” with the sublime music of this husband-wife duo. When they gave a concert in Los Angeles with their full band “The Skeleton Keys,” this past February, I bought their entire catalog; something I haven’t done in 30 years and honestly, these 5 records have dominated my playlist rotation all year.

Read more: SPENCER & RAINS - THE SKELETON KEYS

TITLE: ACROSS THE AMERIKEE: SHOWPIECES FROM COAL CAMP TO CATTLE TRAIL

ARTIST: STEPHEN WADE

LABEL: SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS

RELEASE DATE: JUNE 30, 2017

PURE PERFECTION

By Ross Altman, PhD

Stephen Wade - ACROSS THE AMERIKEERemove one word from the title—Across the Amerikee: Showpieces from Coal Camp to Cattle Trail—and any old folkie with a banjo and guitar could have made this record. Just take out the word “Showpieces” and I could have made it. But Stephen Wade and only Stephen Wade could have made it with that stop the show word right in the middle of it. Every track on the album would have been the highlight of any other performer’s record. 

Read more: STEPHEN WADE - ACROSS THE AMERIKEE

TITLE: PERISCOPE HEART

ARTIST: JACKIE MORRIS

LABEL: BUTTON BOX RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: JUNE 1, 2017

By Steve Werner

Periscope Heart-coverSweetness, lightness, kindness, gentility, joy, love. Boy howdy, we sure could use a little of that stuff these days. When it seems all the news is bad and every jangled headline serves only to drive us ever deeper into despair, I often feel like Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant when he screeched, “Does anybody remember laughter?” Fortunately for us, Jackie Morris not only remembers, but holds an abundance of laughter, love and joy in her heart which she deftly shares with us in her fifth studio album, Periscope Heart.

Read more: JACKIE MORRIS - PERISCOPE HEART

TITLE: THE LAST KIND WORD

ARTIST: KELLY MARIE MARTIN

LABEL: QUESTIONABLE RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: MAY 23, 2017

By Steve Werner

Kelly Marie Martin - The Last Kind WordFolk music is so many things. At its best, it’s joy and pain and wisdom and catharsis sung to express, comfort and ultimately heal through the power of simple music. With the release of The Last Kind Word, her first solo album outside of the groundbreaking Los Angeles old time trio Triple Chicken Foot that she co-founded, Kelly Marie Martin has laid this very beautiful collection of original songs on the world.

Read more: KELLY MARIE MARTIN - THE LAST KIND WORD

TITLE: LIVING THE WESTERN DREAM

ARTIST: JOYCE WOODSON

LABEL: SELF

RELEASE DATE: 2017

By Jackie Morris

Joyce Woodson-Living the Western DreamIn the world of Western music, Grammy-award nominee Joyce Woodson needs no introduction ... a quintessential “cowboy poet” with a voice of liquid loveliness. Named “Songwriter of the Year” by the Western Music Association, she has written timeless songs of Western life, covered by a score of other artists. But her fourth album, Living The Western Dream, will surpass even the highest expectations of her fans.

Read more: JOYCE WOODSON - LIVING THE WESTERN DREAM

TITLE: THE LOVE STILL SHOWS

ARTIST: DONNA LYNN CASKEY

LABEL: CORDULIA MUSIC

RELEASE DATE: February 10, 2017

By Steve Werner

TheLoveStillShowsIn troubling times, a voice of simplicity, humanity and compassion can go a long way to help soothe the worried and weary, be a salve to the soul and give hope where hope is running thin. It is in precisely these times that I find myself in my truck listening over and over to the new CD by Donna Lynn Caskey The Love Still Shows.

Read more: THE LOVE STILL SHOWS - DONNA LYNN CASKEY

TITLE: One Light Many Windows

ARTIST: Merlin Snider

LABEL: Barking Dog Music

RELEASE DATE: November 21, 2016

By Terry Bailey

Merlin Snider - One Light Many WindowsYears ago I visited painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser in his Venice (Italy) studio. I was surprised to see canvases lining the walls in all sorts of styles – not just the colorful spiral and raindrop paintings he was well known for at the time.

 “My gallery owner prefers that I stick to one style. He believes that is what art buyers want from artists: a consistent identity,” he explained to me. “Sadly, I cannot even bring these other works of mine into the gallery.”

This marketing identity demand bleeds over to all art forms: too often writers, filmmakers, composers, songwriters – all creators – are pressured to create in one style and stick to it.

Read more: MERLIN SNIDER - ONE LIGHT MANY WINDOWS

TITLE: THE BEAUTIFUL NOT YET

ARTIST: CARRIE NEWCOMER

LABEL: AVAILABLE LIGHT RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 16, 2016

By Jackie Morris

Carrie.Newcomer.TBNY .AlbumPageProfound and poetic, Carrie Newcomer’s 16th album, The Beautiful Not Yet, soothes the soul as it stimulates the senses. Capturing the mystery and miracle in the everyday, the songs are at once spiritual and down to earth, filled with wisdom and heart.

If you simply read the lyrics on her website, you’ll find the words read like poetry. But in truth, even if I didn’t understand a word of English, I would still think this is one beautiful album. The primary reason is Newcomer’s voice – that celebrated, rich contralto that is so luscious, warm and honest, so natural yet perfectly nuanced, that it makes you feel good just to listen to it. Additionally, The Beautiful Not Yet features an array of gorgeous harmonies and an exciting blend of traditional roots instrumentation (banjo, acoustic guitar and mandolin) and chamber music (cello, violin, and piano).

Read more: CARRIE NEWCOMER - THE BEAUTIFUL NOT YET

TITLE: WHAT THE HEART WANTS

ARTIST: BRITTA LEE SHAIN

LABEL: INDIGO DESERT QUEEN

RELEASE DATE: 2016

By Jackie Morris

Britta Lee Shain - What the Heart WantsBritta Lee Shain’s second CD, What the Heart Wants, should come with a warning label: “This album may be addictive.” In truth, I cannot stop listening to it. Shain’s unique brand of cool, bluesy folk-rock is more than “that good.” It is compelling.

The album was released in tandem with the publication of Shain’s new book, Seeing The Real You At Last: Life and Love on the Road with Bob Dylan, a personal memoir chronicling her time with the folk icon in the 1980s. (One of the songs is a co-write with him, another is a cover of one of his latter-day (1997) hits, and still another … or others … are about him.) But regardless of this intriguing liaison, I have to emphasize that these songs stand on their own. And then some.

Read more: BRITTA LEE SHAIN - WHAT THE HEART WANTS

TITLE: HEART OF THE MOUNTAIN, 200 YEARS OF AN APPALACHIAN FAMILY

ARTIST: JENI & BILLY

LABEL: JEWEL RIDGE RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: MAY 1, 2016

By Susie Glaze

Jeni  Billy - HOTMA new love letter has been written, this one to an entire family and its American ancestors, replete with stories and new songs: Jeni & Billy’s new CD Heart of the Mountain, 200 Years of An Appalachian Family.

I’ve written before in these pages about the work of the Nashville-based Appalachian duo Jeni & Billy. This new entry in their catalogue released this spring is a concept piece, an historical retrospective of family history with songs written to celebrate a few generations of lives and events. The twenty-seven tracks contain both spoken word and music, illuminating the 200 year history of the Smith family in Virginia.

Read more: JENI & BILLY - HEART OF THE MOUNTAIN

TITLE: THE SPOTTED PONY

ARTIST: SPENCER & RAINS

LABEL: OLD-TIME TIKI PARLOUR

RELEASE DATE: JULY 2016

By Pat Mac Swyney

Spencer  Rains - Spotted PonyIf you look up the definition of the Great Plains, it describes the large expanse of predominately flat prairie & steppe grasslands, stretching from southern Canada, across the American Midwest to the Texas-Mexican border; framed by the Mississippi River on the east and by the Rocky Mountains on the west. This broad geography has been home to Native American tribes, European explorers, freed African-American slaves, pioneers and homesteaders and it is from this rich musical landscape that husband-wife duo Tricia Spencer & Howard Rains take their repertoire and inspiration on The Spotted Pony.

Read more: SPENCER & RAINS - THE SPOTTED PONY

TITLE: GUITAR STORIES

ARTIST: JIM “KIMO” WEST

LABEL: WESTERNMOST RECORDS (673553000928)

RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 20, 2015

By Audrey Coleman

Jim Kimo West - Guitar StoriesFrom Maui to the mainland, Jim “Kimo” West has forged a reputation as a slack key guitar player worthy of kudos from Hawaiian masters of the open chord playing style based on dozens of mood-tinged tunings. George Kahumoku has invited him to play in the legendary Slack Key Show in Maui.

Read more: JIM “KIMO” WEST - GUITAR STORIES

TITLE: ALL THESE YEARS

ARTIST: SOLAS

LABEL: THL RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 17, 2016

By Anya Sturm

Solas - All These YearsFor the past 20 years, Solas has blurred the line of modern and traditional Irish music. In their new album, All These Years, they blend traditional and contemporary tunes, American and Irish music, and even rock with traditional Celtic energy. Moira Smiley, the new singer, joins the long standing members consisting of Seamus Egan (flute, tenor banjo, mandolin, whistles, guitars, bodhran), Winifred Horan (fiddles, vocals), Eamon McElholm (guitars, keyboards, vocals) and, Mick McAuley (button accordion, vocals).

Read more: SOLAS - ALL THESE YEARS

TITLE: BEHAVE THE BRAVEST

ARTIST: NUALA KENNEDY

LABEL: UNDER THE ARCH RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: January 29, 2016

By Jackie Morris

Nuala Kennedy - Behave the BravestA true Celtic gem! Nuala Kennedy’s fourth solo album, Behave The Bravest – Traditional Music from Ireland, Scotland, and Beyond - is a brilliant display of the acclaimed singer and flutist’s multi-faceted talent. The album, recorded over six months on three continents – while Nuala was on tour with her band in the U.K., Australia and the U.S. – provides a lovely mix of traditional music with an excitingly fresh sound. There are ancient ballads...a waulking song, sung in Gaelic...love songs from Scotland and Ulster...a contemporary Celtic instrumental...and two instrumental medleys, one of reels and the other of jigs.

Read more: BEHAVE THE BRAVEST - NUALA KENNEDY

TITLE: CAN’T STAY HERE THIS A-WAY

ARTIST: BRUCE MOLSKY

LABEL: OLD-TIME TIKI PARLOUR

RELEASE DATE: MAY 2016

By Pat Mac Swyney

Bruce Molsky - Can't Stay Here This a-Way Last summer, the trailer for this latest release from the Old-Time Tiki Parlour started showing up on social media. It opens with black screen audio of Bruce Molsky blazing through the classic fiddle tune Old Sledge followed by a seemingly audacious quote from Darol Anger, a founding member and fiddler from the David Grisman Quintet; declaring Bruce Molsky to be “The Rembrandt of Appalachian Fiddle.”

Read more: BRUCE MOLSKY - CAN’T STAY HERE THIS A-WAY

Aritmia – A Marriage Made in Music

By Audrey Coleman

ARITMIA by Merima Kljuco  Miroslav TadicOn first glance, the accordion and the acoustic guitar have little in common. The first is a large, hulking affair strapped on to the musician who negotiates its keyboard or buttons to achieve various pitches and manipulates bellows to control tone, timbre, and dynamics. The guitar, on the other hand, seems to melt into the musician’s body as tones are teased out by plucking and strumming and fingers achieve dynamics and texture with direct pressure.

Read more: ARITMIA – A MARRIAGE MADE IN MUSIC

TITLE: L’Echo À Travers Le Clos (Echo Across the Field)

ARTIST: Joe Fontenot

LABEL: Old-Time Tiki Parlour

RELEASE DATE: March 2016

By Pat Mac Swyney

LECHO À TRAVERS LE CLOS - JOE FONTENOTL’Echo À Travers Le Clos is southwest Louisiana native-Los Angeles transplant Joe Fontenot’s first record and a very important and an extraordinary celebration of traditional Creole music & culture.

Some 30 years ago, I was playing locally in Irish Trad. and CowPunk bands with a button accordionist friend who turned us all on to the regional accordion music of south Texas and southwest Louisiana.

Read more: L’ECHO À TRAVERS LE CLOS - JOE FONTENOT

TITLE: LEMA LEMA

ARTIST: EVA SALINA

LABEL: VOGITON RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 11, 2016

Eva Salina Sings Šaban Bajramović

By Pat Mac Swyney

EVA SALINA - LEMA LEMAI first heard Eva Salina sing over 15 years ago at Balkan Music & Dance Camp in the coastal redwood forest of west Mendocino County. I can’t imagine she was old enough to drive at the time, yet there she was, confidently and deftly belting out assorted Balkan folk songs alongside considerably more tenured singers from both the Balkans and America.

Read more: EVA SALINA - LEMA LEMA

TITLE: BIG FANCY

ARTIST: DAVID BRAGGER

LABEL: OLD TIME TIKI PARLOUR

RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 2016

By Steve Goldfield

David Bragger - Big FancyDavid Bragger is known in the pages of FolkWorks for his column, the Old Time Oracle. His attention to the intricacies of fiddle and banjo styles, as well as the backgrounds of the tunes, has attracted many students in the L.A. area. His students are an essential core of the old-time music renaissance. His Old Time Tiki Parlour has been releasing great CDs and DVDs of other musicians as well as hosting concerts with these same artists. His new CD, Big Fancy, features twenty-one tracks played on his great uncle's fiddle and on banjo, and pump organ. He is accompanied by his Sausage Grinder bandmates:

Read more: DAVID BRAGGER - BIG FANCY

TITLE: ERIC & SUZY THOMPSON DVD

ARTIST: ERIC & SUZY THOMPSON

LABEL: OLD TIME TIKI PARLOUR

RELEASE DATE: 2015

By Steve Goldfield

Eric  Suzy Thompson DVDDavid Bragger has filmed this superb 18-cut performance DVD of Berkeley's Eric and Suzy Thompson. The intimacy of the video puts you up close and personal. It's a bit like attending a concert and sitting a foot or two in front of the performers. The extensive liner notes also help you to get inside the tunes and songs. Not many musicians can play such a wide range of genres and maintain such a high level of excellence in each one, but Eric and Suzy are definitely up to the task.

Read more: ERIC & SUZY THOMPSON DVD

TITLE: INTO THIN HAIR

ARTIST: THE SUNNY MOUNTAIN SERENADERS

LABEL: NONE

RELEASE DATE: 2015

By Steve Goldfield

SUNNY MOUNTAIN SERENADERS - INTO THIN HAIRThe Sunny Mountain Serenaders comprise three great old-time musicians who play very well together. I have known all three for a long time. Mark Campbell is a Virginia fiddler who has won the prestigious fiddle contest at the Appalachian String Band Festival in Clifftop, West Virginia. Mac Traynham, who plays banjo and harmonica and sings lead has won both banjo and fiddle at Clifftop. John Schwab has played guitar in many great bands and has written a book on old-time backup guitar. John sings harmony. They offer a generous 18 selections on this, their first CD.

Read more: SUNNY MOUNTAIN SERENADERS - INTO THIN HAIR

TITLE: SHAKIN' DOWN THE ACORNS

ARTIST: RED SQUIRREL CHASERS

LABEL: VIGORTONE

RELEASE DATE: 2015

By Steve Goldfield

Red Squirrel Chasers - Shakin Down The AcornsThe Red Squirrel Chasers first formed about a decade ago to play dances. Now, they have combined their formidable talents into this new recording of 16 tunes and songs. The four members of the band are fiddler Stephanie Coleman, mandolinist Jim Collier, guitarist Jim Nelson, and bass player Dedo Norris. All four sing, though Collier and Nelson sing all the leads and most of the harmony. Their musical interests span the genres of old-time music and early bluegrass.

Read more: RED SQUIRREL CHASERS - SHAKIN' DOWN THE ACORNS

TITLE: SORROWS AND GLORIES

ARTIST: RED MOON ROAD

LABEL: SELF

RELEASE DATE: SEPT. 11, 2015

By Jackie Morris

Sorrows and Glories - Red Moon RoadOne of the most exciting folk groups to come out of Canada in recent years, Red Moon Road brings an irresistible blend of energy, charm, story-telling, and musical virtuosity to their songs that makes you want to hear them again and again. With wonderful melodies punctuated by spot-on harmonies and upbeat rhythms, their second album, Sorrows and Glories, is as refreshingly original as it is inviting; as ideal for careful listening as it is for just driving in your car and not minding the traffic so much.

Read more: RED MOON ROAD - SORROWS AND GLORIES

TITLE: HURRY UP AND WAIT

ARTIST: DUET 2 IT

LABEL: ET ENT.

RELEASE DATE: 2015

By Jackie Morris

duet 2 itOnce, when I was at a concert, I overheard someone say (about the artist), “She could sing the telephone book and it would sound amazing.” That’s the kind of voice that Erin Montgomery brings to Duet 2 It. And her abilities are matched, on lead guitar, by her partner, Chris Roullard. Together, in Hurry Up and Wait, this young duo has created a debut album that fairly explodes with talent, vitality, and a sophistication that belies their years.

Read more: DUET 2 IT - HURRY UP AND WAIT

TITLE: WOVEN

ARTIST: JENNA MOYNIHAN

LABEL: DIMENSION SOUNDS

RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 2015

By Anya Sturm

Jenna Moynihan - WovenScottish fiddlers interpret traditional music different ways: some play all traditional session tunes note-by-note, others take basic elements of the style and write entirely new compositions, and yet others mix the two ideas into their own sound, playing both traditional tunes and originals. Jenna Moynihan does this in her new CD, Woven, while incorporating Appalachian bowing patterns as well as old-time cross tunings throughout the entirely instrumental CD.

Read more: JENNA MOYNIHAN - WOVEN

TITLE: DEEP END SESSIONS: VOLUME II - JESSE MILNES & EMILY MILLER

ARTISTS: JESSE MILNES & EMILY MILLER

LABEL: DEEP END SESSIONS

RELEASE DATE: 2015

By Steve Goldfield

Deep End Sessions Volume IIThis wonderful recording was made at the Deep End Ranch in Southern California, north of Los Angeles. Jesse is the son of West Virginia musician and folklorist, Gerry Milnes. Emily also has strong musical roots; in fact, I reviewed a great recording of her with her mother, Valerie Mindel, a few years ago. Emily is lead singer and a fiddler in the Sweetback Sisters. They have been playing together as a duo for about a decade and that shows in how well they work together. Both sing, both fiddle, and both play guitar, all very, very well.

Read more: DEEP END SESSIONS: VOLUME II - JESSE MILNES & EMILY MILLER

TITLE: WALTZ COLLECTION

ARTIST: BUTCH WALLER

LABEL: BIG CHICKEN RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: 2015

By Steve Goldfield

Butch Waller - Waltz ColllectionMandolinist Henry “Butch” Waller has been leading the SF Bay Area band High Country since 1968. His latest recording is a collection of six waltzes, all his original compositions. Five of them are instrumentals; Golden Gate Waltz is sung by Butch with his daughter, Juniper.

Read more: BUTCH WALLER - WALTZ COLLECTION

TITLE: BRIGHT SHADOW

ARTIST: ANA EGGE

LABEL: GRACE/PARKINSONG

RELEASE DATE: 2015

By Jackie Morris

Ana Egge - Bright ShadowEvery once in a while I hear a voice whose sheer beauty stops me in my tracks. Such was the case the first time I heard Ana Egge in Bright Shadow. Ethereal yet down to earth, simple yet sophisticated, her soft, silky vocals seem almost effortless, whether she’s delivering a cool jazzy number or traditional, up-tempo Americana...a poignant ballad or a moody singer-songwriter original...as well as, of course, the edgy Lucinda Williams-style folk rock that distinguished her last album (produced by Steve Earle).

Read more: ANA EGGE - BRIGHT SHADOW

TITLE: SPURS #2.2 / MIDNIGHT ROAD TRIP

ARTIST: RUN DOWNHILL

LABEL: OH MY TERRIBLE JOY MUSIC AND COMICS

RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 2015

By Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh

Run Downhill - Spurs 2.2Swinging saloon doors, blood on the floor, revolvers and card games gone bad… This is Run Downhill’s west, a place where a thrillingly lawless musical landscape à la Ennio Morricone can intersect with lyrical foreboding. This, the band’s fourth album, takes listeners into a darker world that asks: what happens to a mind subjected to constant skirmishes for survival?

Read more: RUN DOWNHILL - SPURS #2.2 / MIDNIGHT ROAD TRIP

TITLE: THE WAKING

ARTIST: NOCTAMBULE (MARLA FIBISH AND BRUCE VICTOR)

LABEL: NOCTAMBULE MUSIC

RELEASE DATE: 2015

By Kevin Carr

Noctambule - The WakingFor those blessed enough to have journeyed through the nocturnal aural wonderland that was Noctambule’s (Marla Fibish and Bruce Victor) first recording, the question was inevitably, what happens when we awake from this intoxicating, mind altering musical dream? And here is the answer in the form of their second recording. The Waking takes us into a daytime world where all is changed; colors sharper, shadows deeper and clearer, sounds richer and more resonant with meaning and emotion, where time becomes malleable, now syrupy, now supple, now misty and ephemeral. This is magic.

Read more: NOCTAMBULE - THE WAKING

TITLE: TANGLED COUNTRY

ARTIST: THE HONEY DEWDROPS

LABEL: SELF

RELEASE DATE: MAY 2015

By Jackie Morris

Honey Dewdrops - Tangled CountryWith their fourth studio album in six years, Tangled Country, The Honey Dewdrops continue to weave their addictive sound...even as they branch out from their Appalachian folk roots into Americana, blues and singer-songwriter genres.

Characterized by compelling, earthy harmonies – so tight that they often sound as if one person is singing in two compelling voices – The Honey Dewdrops are comprised of a young, multi-talented husband-wife duo, Kagey Parrish and Laura Wortman. 

Read more: THE HONEY DEWDROPS - TANGLED COUNTRY

TITLE: TRADITION

ARTIST: STUART MASON

LABEL: NATIVE HOME MUSIC

RELEASE DATE: MAY 26, 2015

By Steve Goldfield

Stuart Mason - TraditionStuart Mason is from West Virginia but lives on California's central coast. He calls his music “oldternative” which is a good word to describe branching from old roots into unusual spaces. You can hear that in the arrangement of Red Rocking Chair with traditional lyrics and banjo but unusual harmonies and Tony Furtado's slide guitar. Ryan Davidson, who coproduced, plays bass on most tracks. That tinkering with tradition continues with Jesus Met the Woman in the Well on which Mason plays mandola and Tony twangs again. On Gospel Plow, which has a more old than alternative sound, Stu returns to banjo and Amber Cross adds strong harmony vocals.

Read more: STUART MASON - TRADITION

TITLE: I CAN SWING FOREVER

ARTISTS: TRACY NEWMAN / CHARLOTTE DEAN

LABEL: KABEAUTY MUSIC

RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 12, 2014

By Stefani Rosenberg

TRACY NEWMAN - I CAN SWING FOREVERToday, many artists feel the need to record only the music that they have composed; for many, this works. The same holds true in the world of children's music. For every CD that stands out, there are two that are just mediocre.

Among the best we have Malvina Reynolds, Ella Jenkins, Jose-Luis Orozco, Suni Paz, Marcia Berman, Patty Zeitlen, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and “Uncle Ruthie” Buell. Their music and stories have withstood the test of time.

Read more: TRACY NEWMAN / CHARLOTTE DEAN - I CAN SWING FOREVER

TITLE: CHEMISTRY

ARTIST: LESLIE BEAUVAIS

LABEL: LESLIE BEAUVAIS

RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 15, 2014

By Ron Sarfaty

Leslie Beauvais - ChemistryI first received my copy of Leslie Beauvais 's new CD Chemistry about 2 weeks before it was officially released. I had heard Leslie sing backup vocals for Severin Browne and a few times with Jaynee Thorne at John Zipperer and Friends concerts.

My first impression of her voice was very positive. Although I mostly heard harmony, she had good breath control and a pretty good range - Alto to High Soprano. When I heard that she was working with Ed Tree to produce her new CD, I was an instant fan and preordered through her social fundraising attempt.

Read more: LESLIE BEAUVAIS - CHEMISTRY

TITLE: YOU’RE HOME NOW

ARTIST: RICHARD BERMAN

LABEL: ARIES RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: 2014

By Jackie Morris

Youre home now  richard bermanRichard Berman is one of the great masters of the story-song. And his new seventh album, You’re Home Now, just might be his best work yet. This is no small compliment...as decades of critical acclaim, multiple awards, and Folk DJ “favorite” lists can attest to. Poetic yet always relatable – intimate, thought-provoking, and entertaining – his songs draw you in with lovely, haunting melodies and hold you with beautifully understated feeling.

Read more: RICHARD BERMAN - YOU’RE HOME NOW

TITLE: THE NE’ER DUWELS

ARTIST: THE NE’ER DUWELS

LABEL: SELF

RELEASE DATE: JUNE, 2015

By Mark Dresser

Neer DuwelsThere are times when travelers on different paths meet at a crossroads and discover they have been brought together for a purpose. Connections are forged because each knows the road ahead is right and true. Such is the case with the band the Ne’er Duwels: four accomplished musicians who have joined together to create a solid recording.

Ken O’ Malley from Dublin, Ireland, is the lead singer of the band. Ken has entertained audiences for over 30 years, and is one of the most well-known and beloved Irish folk singers working today. His rich voice and skillful guitar work are fueled by deep passion for his people and their history. Ken pours his soul into every word he sings, every measure he plays, and the music of the Ne’er Duwels laughs, breathes, and aches with his dedication.

Read more: THE NE’ER DUWELS

TITLE: KEEPING UP WITH THE HEARD

ARTIST: THE MACMAMMALS

LABEL: SELF

RELEASE DATE: MAY 2015

By Jackie Morris

macmammals - keeping up with the heardFor those of us whose first musical love was traditional and neo-traditional folk ballads, the brand new debut album by The MacMammals provides a welcome, refreshing return to the simple beauty of this genre. Garnering songs from Ireland, Scotland, England and North America, Keeping Up with the Heard is authentic, acoustic, and moving; a collection of wonderful songs, tastefully arranged, while still achieving a very full, satisfying sound.

Read more: THE MACMAMMALS - KEEPING UP WITH THE HEARD

TITLE: DEVIL IN THE SEAT

ARTIST: THE FOGHORN STRINGBAND

LABEL: FOGHORN MUSIC

RELEASE DATE: MARCH, 2015

By Steve Goldfield

DEVIL IN THE SEAT - FOGHORNThe Foghorn Stringband began as five guys playing hard-driving old-time music. Two of them, Caleb Klauder and Sammy Lind, formed the Foghorn Duo. Nadine Landry then joined on vocals and bass to make them a trio. Reeb Willms added her guitar and voice to make the Foghorn Stringband what it is today. All four sing powerfully, and they play hard-driving music featuring Sammy's fiddle and Caleb's mandolin, among other combinations. This is the eighth Foghorn release, and it certainly lives up to the standards the band has set for itself. It was recorded in Hawaii, but it's full of hard-driving music and edgy singing.

Read more: FOGHORN STRINGBAND - DEVIL IN THE SEAT

TITLE: BALAS Y CHOCOLATE

ARTIST: LILA DOWNS

LABEL: RCA RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: MARCH 24, 2015

By Jonathan Shifflet

BALAS Y CHOCOLATEHeadlines about the recent violence in Mexico only tell half of the story. In Lila Downs’ most recent album Balas y Chocolate (bullets and chocolate), the other half is given a voice. 

Using her signature silky register and an arsenal of regional styles, Downs uses Spanish and indigenous Mixtec words to describe the history of violence toward students and journalists. Using the themes and symbols of the Day of the Dead, she creates an allegory for the misdeeds while capturing the feelings of foreboding that follow from such violence and manipulation. The opening line of track one prepares the listener to hear the sounds of radio Mictlan – the radio of the underworld.

Read more: LILA DOWNS - BALAS Y CHOCOLATE

TITLE: THE WIDENING GYRE

ARTIST: ALTAN

LABEL: COMPASS RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 20, 2015

By Anya Sturm

Altan - The Widening GyreAltan’s new CD The Widening Gyre is a fantastic collection of traditional Gaelic songs mixed in with Irish jam regulars. The band is joined by many special guests in this collection of upbeat lively jam tunes as well as slower songs sung by Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh.

Altan is a traditional Irish band— arguably the most famous one currently playing. It was started in 1987 by Mairéad (rhymes with parade) and her late husband Frankie Kennedy. Mairéad is the daughter of Proinsias Ó Maonaigh, or Francie Moony who also contributed to traditional Irish fiddling.

Read more: ALTAN - THE WIDENING GYRE

TITLE: NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL

ARTIST: SUSIE GLAZE & THE HILONESOME BAND

LABEL: HILONESOME MUSIC

RELEASE DATE: MARCH 2015

By Jackie Morris

notthatkindofgirlcoverarthi-resAfter three critically acclaimed CDs in the past 5 years, it is not surprising that Susie Glaze & The Hilonesome Band have created yet another memorable album. But Not That Kind of Girl is more than just “another.” It is, I believe, their best album yet...in part because this group keeps pushing their own boundaries...challenging themselves in terms of musical diversity, original songs and fresh interpretations.

Read more: SUSIE GLAZE - NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL

TITLE: DAN GELLERT DVD & CD SET

ARTIST: DAN GELLERT

LABEL: THE OLD-TIME TIKI PARLOUR

RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 2015

By Steve Goldfield

Dan Gellert DVD-CD coverSome of Dan Gellert's early recordings seemed to have trouble capturing his unique sound and approach to old-time music. The late Ray Alden told me that he had to use two microphones, one in front and one behind Dan's banjo, to do it. This new recording from David Bragger's Old-Time Tiki Parlour succeeds on multiple levels: it has excellent sound and also comes on both a DVD where you can watch Dan play banjo and fiddle and sing and an audio CD of the same material. David told me that everyone associated in any way with its production is an old-time musician. 

Read more: DAN GELLERT DVD & CD SET

TITLE: LONG BEFORE LIGHT

ARTIST: THE ONLIES

LABEL: NONE

RELEASE DATE: APRIL 4, 2015

By Anya Sturm

long before lightLong Before Light is the third CD by the Onlies, a three-piece band from Seattle. Sami Braman, Riley Calcagno, and Leo Shannon are still juniors in high school, but have played together for years, so they are a solid band. Together, they have been to many fiddle camps including Valley of the Moon, Sierra Fiddle Camp, Fiddle tunes, Big Sur Fiddle Camp, and Mount Shasta Fiddle Camp and the influence of those camps shows. It is not uncommon to walk around these camps at any time of day or night and hear people jamming and that CD reflects the same laid-black groove that develops from playing in those jams.

Read more: THE ONLIES: LONG BEFORE LIGHT

TITLE: TOMORROW IS MY TURN

ARTIST: RHIANNON GIDDENS

LABEL: NONESUCH

RELEASE DATE: 2015

By Steve Goldfield

giddens-tomorrow-is-my-turnIn case you were wondering whether Rhiannon Giddens has one of the great singing voices of our time, her new solo CD will answer that question. If you had not been wondering, it means that you probably have not heard her sing. T-Bone Burnett, who produced this collection of eleven songs, places her in a musical geneology ranging through Marian AndersonOdettaMahalia Jackson, and Rosetta Tharpe

Read more: RHIANNON GIDDENS: TOMORROW IS MY TURN

ARTIST: LEAD BELLY

TITLE: LEAD BELLY: THE SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS COLLECTION

LABEL: SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS

PRODUCED BY: JEFF PLACE AND ROBERT SANTELLI

RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 24, 2015

LEAD BELLY: KING OF THE 12-STRING GUITAR

By Ross Altman, PhD

Smithsonian Lead BellyHow did Leadbelly spell his name? In the Oak Publication The Leadbelly Songbook there is a photo of a handwritten note written by Leadbelly in which he signs his name at the bottom. Guess what; he spells it as one word—Leadbelly. That’s the way almost all the original Folkways releases spelled it too—and the FolkWays tribute album A Vision Shared: the Songs and Legend of Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly. So why is this new and by all accounts definitive box set of Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection suddenly revising his own spelling?

Political correctness, pure and simple; they must think his name looks more respectable spelled as if it were two words. But as Woody Guthrie reminds us, Lead wasn’t his first name, and Belly wasn’t his last name. That was Huddie Ledbetter. And as everyone who knew him knows, Leadbelly was anything but respectable.

Read more: LEAD BELLY: KING OF THE 12-STRING GUITAR

TITLE: GREEN

ARTIST: SABRINA & CRAIG

LABEL: LIONESS / BRONZE MEDAL MUSIC

RELEASE DATE: 2015

By Jackie Morris

Sabrina  Craig - GREENA work of passion and perfection, Sabrina & Craig’s second joint album, GREEN, wastes no time in sweeping you away with sweet melodies, dynamic rhythms, brilliant finger-style guitar, and the gorgeous harmonies that have become the duo’s trademark.

All eleven tracks are original –written by either Sabrina Schneppat or Craig Lincoln – and they flow easily together in a refreshing variety of styles ranging from folk to old-timey, from blues to ballads, from jazzy lounge numbers to toe-tapping Americana.

Read more: SABRINA & CRAIG - GREEN

DYLAN DOES SINATRA HIS WAY

TITLE: SHADOWS IN THE NIGHT

ARTIST: BOB DYLAN

RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 3, 2015

LABEL: COLUMBIA RECORDS

By Ross Altman, PhD

Dylan Shadows in the NightThe Fifties were anything but fabulous for Frank Sinatra; he was dropped by Columbia Records in 1952, his career in the doldrums. His personal life wasn’t any better. He was divorced by his wife Nancy and attempted suicide in despair due to his tumultuous relationship with his next wife, Ava Gardner. In 1955 he released In the Wee Small Hours, a new kind of concept album, and followed it with Where Are You in 1957, an even starker portrayal of a singer at the end of his rope. In 1958 he rounded out this trilogy of unfulfilled romantic longing with Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely, his third album for Capitol Records. At the edge of the abyss, in retrospect they represent Sinatra at his introspective best, before he got caught up in the Chairman-of-the-Board bravado of New York, New York and My Way.

Read more: DYLAN DOES SINATRA HIS WAY

TITLE: WINDOWS OF TIME

ARTIST: MIKE MULLINS

LABEL: RUBBER CHICKEN RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: 2014

By Jackie Morris

Mike Mullins - Windows of TimeWindows of Time is the perfect title for this beautiful collection of mostly-original songs and instrumentals by guitar and mandolin master, Mike Mullins. Sometimes playful, often poignant, his music captures the stories and styles of centuries past...while providing an overview of more than two decades Mullins’ own compositions and arrangements. The result is an album filled with timeless appeal....rooted in acoustic tradition, poetic story-songs and toe-tapping reels.

Mullins has been called a musician’s musician for good reason. Beyond his instrumental precision and quicksilver picking, there is a sweetness that runs through his music; a wistful quality in his weave of guitar, mandolin, and vocals...frequently combined with a fiddle.

Read more: MIKE MULLINS - WINDOWS OF TIME

TITLE: SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION

ARTIST: WILDFIRE

LABEL: ISM 1001 (INSULLSCHER MUSIC)

RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER, 2014

By Michael Baird

SPONT COM COVER smUsing a second-by-second countdown, a rocket launch at NASA builds anticipation and excitement; Imagine holding this level of excitement but now change the scale from seconds to years, and rockets to traditional music.

TEN. Richard Scher and Bonnie Insull, the principal members of Wildfire, have been at the heart of the Folk Dance Music scene in LA for many years.

Read more: SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION - WILDFIRE

TITLE: BEYOND THE BLUE

ARTIST: THE DUHKS

LABEL: COMPASS RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: 2014

By Jackie Morris

Duhks - Beyond The BlueThe Duhks are back...flying higher than ever with their 5th CD, Beyond the Blue. After taking a hiatus of two years, this celebrated Canadian neo-trad folk band demonstrates, yet again, the bold, beautiful, eclectic, exciting and innovative music that has consistently earned them critical acclaim. All of their previous CDs have been nominated for Juno Awards - winning Best Roots & Traditional Album by a Group in 2005, and a Grammy nomination in 2007.

Beyond the Blue is a stunning album, almost addictive in its adventurous rhythms, harmonies and arrangements....mixing a strong Celtic base with a lot of everything else: Appalachian... old-timey....a little blues....a little soul...a French song from Mali...and a lot of driving folk-rock and Afro Cuban rhythms.

Read more: DUHKS - BEYOND THE BLUE

TITLE: ALEXIS ZOUMBAS: A LAMENT FOR EPIRUS 1926-1928

ARTIST: ALEXIS ZOUMBAS

LABEL: LONG GONE SOUND/ANGRY MOM ARCHIVES

RELEASE DATE: APRIL 20, 2014

By Jonathan Shifflett

Alexis Zoumbas78-rpm collector Christopher King has a way of making old music seem new. Although he grew up listening to pre-war blues and hillbilly recordings, he focuses now on reissuing 78-rpm recordings from performers outside the American vernacular. What he finds is that the rawness, the spirit and the energy of the early American performers like Skip James or Dennis McGee is evident in ethnic recordings as well. In a sense, he curates the blues and country music of other cultures.

His most recent production, Alexis Zoumbas: A Lament for Epirus 1926 -1928 profiles Zoumbas’ masterful violin adaptations of Greek sheepherding music, now available on a beautiful gatefold LP with artwork by R. Crumb. An immigrant to the States from the Albanian influenced region of Epirus, Zoumbas recorded for Columbia in Prohibition-era New York City. Apart from his recorded works, very little biographical information exists about the exiled performer.

Read more: ALEXIS ZOUMBAS: A LAMENT FOR EPIRUS 1926-1928

TITLE: LAUGHTER OUT OF TEARS

ARTIST: MOIRA SMILEY & VOCO

LABEL: WHIM RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 15, 2014

By Jackie Morris

Laughter Out of TearsHaunting, ethereal, and totally mesmerizing, Moira Smiley & VOCO bring an almost mystical quality to both original and traditional folk music. Drawing from a deep well of influence, their fourth album, Laughter Out of Tears, moves effortlessly from Appalachian roots to Balkan polyphony to Scandinavian folksongs; and then transcends tradition on five tracks by introducing the innovative “Choir of YOU,” a technology-empowered “chorus” of 200 voices from around the English-speaking world.

The result is a kind of magic that is both subliminal and sublime, characterized by rich, complex harmonies, other-worldly polyphonic singing and sparse instrumentation. The 8 women who contributed to this VOCO release all sing (divinely, I should add) and play most of the instruments – a minimalist banjo and accordion (by Smiley), a tender cello (by April Guthrie), and plenty of body percussion. Single tracks are also punctuated by fiddle and uke, with guest artists on guitar, trumpet and percussion.

Read more: LAUGHTER OUT OF TEARS - MOIRA SMILEY & VOCO

TITLE: YOU GOT THIS

ARTIST: HAAS KOWERT TICE

LABEL: NONE

RELEASE DATE: JULY 2014

By Jonathan Shifflett

Haas Kowert Tice - You Got ThisBrittany Haas, Paul Kowert and Jordan Tice are friends who, after meeting at various string band festivals in their youth, represent a new wave within the American string community. Bursting with their combined influences, You Got This is less like newgrass music and more reminiscent of works for a contemporary music ensemble. Released in July of 2014, the nine original compositions are densely packed with contrapuntal exchanges, changing meters and extended harmonies. The result: fiddle, guitar and bass at their most innovative. 

Read more: HAAS KOWERT TICE - YOU GOT THIS

TITLE: SONGS ABOUT TRACTORS AND STUFF

ARTIST: DENNIS ROGER REED

LABEL: PLASTIC MELTDOWN RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: 2014

By Jackie Morris

Songs About Tractors and StuffFrom the very first blue notes of Dennis Roger Reed’s guitar, I knew I was hooked. And the vocals that followed did not disappoint. Reed has “that sound” – so casual, so fluid, so rhythmically right-on-the-money – that makes his blues-infused Country/Americana, rootsy, rock-a-billy and other “stuff” groove so immediately appealing. It’s a sound that conjures up fantasies of old-time honkytonks and gritty biker bars; yet at the same time, it’s the timeless sound of polished talent.

Read more: DENNIS ROGER REED - SONGS ABOUT TRACTORS AND STUFF

TITLE: 20TH ANNIVERSARY CD, LIVE IN BRITTANY

ARTIST: CELTIC FIDDLE FESTIVAL

LABEL: LOFTUS MUSIC

RELEASE DATE: 2014

By Roland Sturm

Celtic Fiddle Festival - Live in BrittanyThe Celtic Fiddle Festival, a group of three fiddlers representing different “celtic” styles, just celebrated its 20th anniversary with a tour and live CD. It is the group’s 6th CD. They did not make it to Southern California on their US tour - the SF Bay Area was as close as they came - but the CD is a fine substitute and allows for a repeated experience.

The original idea of the Celtic Fiddle Festival was to showcase different, yet related, fiddle styles and explore their historic connection. The initial group included Kevin Burke (representing Irish fiddle), Johnny Cunningham (Scotland), and Christian Lemaître (Britanny, France). After Johnny Cunningham died in 2003, his place was taken by André Brunet (Quebec, Canada). On their tours and recordings, they have been joined by a number of different accompanists over the years, most recently – and on this CD Nicolas Quemener from Brittany.

Read more: CELTIC FIDDLE FESTIVAL - LIVE IN BRITTANY

TITLE: LAURIE & KATHY SING THE SONGS OF VERN & RAY

ARTIST: LAURIE LEWIS & KATHY KALLICK

LABEL: SPRUCE & MAPLE MUSIC

RELEASE DATE: 2014

By Devon Leger

Reprinted With Permission From Hearth Music

LLewisKKallickVernRayVern Williams and Ray Park both grew up in the Ozarks of Arkansas, about five miles away from each other, but never met until moving to central California in the 1950s. Their memorable live performances and recordings in the ‘60s and ‘70s largely formed the basis for the bluegrass repertoire in California, and they became powerful influences on many aspiring bluegrass musicians. Their intensity and integrity left no doubt that they were the Real Deal.

Among those coming under the spell of Vern & Ray -- and playing in their bands on occasion -- were American roots music veterans Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick. They have been turning to Vern & Ray material since they began singing together in the mid- 1970’s, and dedicated their first duet album, Together (Rounder Records), to Vern and Ray. They now revisit these beloved songs for their newly- released (and long-awaited) second collaboration, Laurie & Kathy Sing The Songs Of Vern & Ray.

Read more: LAURIE & KATHY SING THE SONGS OF VERN & RAY

TITLE: PICNIC IN THE SKY

ARTIST: JENI & BILLY’S BIG PICNIC BAND

LABEL: WAYSTATION RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: JUNE 2014

By Susie Glaze

JeniBilly-picnic smI last wrote about the Nashville duo Jeni & Billy in the fall of 2008 when I reviewed their release of that year, Jewell Ridge Coal.

Since that time, Jeni Hankins and Billy Kemp have been busy traveling throughout the US, United Kingdom and Canada, as well as recording. Their follow up to Jewel Ridge Coal was a fine studio album, Longing for Heaven in 2010, and then in 2013 they released Sweet Song Coming ‘Round which was a live-performance album collated from their 2012 US tours.

This new release, Picnic in the Sky, is quite the departure for the duo but also a revival of sorts, one of a different set of roots: big country classics that are realized in most dramatic form with a full band accompaniment and arrangements. 

Read more: JENI & BILLY-PICNIC IN THE SKY

TITLE: RING THEM BELLS

ARTIST: THE COPPER PONIES

LABEL: HUDSON HARDING MUSIC

RELEASE DATE: 2013

By Jackie Morris

The Copper Ponies - Ring Them BellsEvery once in a while a duo comes along whose voices blend so wonderfully, so naturally, that the result transcends the individual singers, however talented they may be. Such is the case with The Copper Ponies.

The duo consists of Annie Donahue, a fresh new voice in the folk world, and Erik Balkey, a multi-award-winning, chart-topping singer-songwriter whose credits include over 300 songs and nine albums. And their debut EP, Ring Them Bells, reflects this exciting alchemy....resulting in, not surprisingly, a sound that is simultaneously fresh and well-seasoned.

The five “contemporary folk” songs on Ring Them Bells include both covers and an original (co-written) song, and serve to strikingly showcase the pair’s versatility, down-to-earth style, polished musicianship and instant appeal. But it is not the first time that Balkey and Donahue have written or sung together.

Read more: THE COPPER PONIES - RING THEM BELLS

TITLE: BAD DOG BUFFET

ARTIST: VANCE GILBERT

LABEL: SELF

RELEASE DATE: 2014

By Ellen Giurleo

Vance Gilbert will be playing Sunday, June 29th at McCabes Guitar Shop, Santa Monica

Vance Gilbert - BaD Dog BuffetVance Gilbert is back with another beautifully sung and evocative album – a transcendent collection of new songs on his CD, BaD Dog Buffet – and, as Vance’s audience knows, the magic of Vance happens on stage. His live show has a reputation that precedes it.

Known equally for his vocal virtuosity and his comedic stage banter and stories, Vance has continued to garner new fans wherever he plays. In the beginning it was Shawn Colvin who wanted him on her tour. Requests also came in from Arlo Guthrie, Anita Baker, and the late George Carlin and most recently, Paul Reiser to add Vance to their shows.

Over the course of a decade in the music business, Vance has made many great recordings and BaD Dog Buffet is perhaps his finest.  This time he had generous assistance from a varied list of respected guests—including Celtic harpist/singer Aine Minogue, bluegrass boys Darol Anger and Joe Walsh Jr., jazz sax player Grace Kelly, country rocker Roy Sludge, and guitarist Kevin Barry.

Read more: VANCE GILBERT - BAD DOG BUFFET

TITLE: THE HONEYSUCKLE POSSUMS

ARTIST: THE HONEYSUCKLE POSSUMS

LABEL: SELF

RELEASE DATE: 2014

By Jackie Morris

honeysuckle possums coverGood times never sounded so sweet or conveyed so much ethereal energy as this foot-stompin’, old-time, “down home”-style gem by The Honeysuckle Possums. Filled with break-your-heart beautiful harmonies, their first self-titled CD is a mix of popular traditional and standout original songs, all sung, played and co-produced by five exceptionally talented women.

The group consists of three core members – singer-songwriters Rebecca Troon, Susan Marie Reeves and Nicola Gordon (each of whom contribute original songs or co-writes, and take turns singing lead vocals) – along with bassist Lisa Macker and award-winning Flatfoot and Old-Time Buck dancer, Ruth Alpert.

Based in Santa Barbara, California, the five women are the real deal: accomplished multi-instrumentalists who have been playing together for several years now, tightening their sound as they tighten their friendship and amp up the fun. Troon plays banjo and fiddle; Reeves adds a solid rhythm guitar; and Gordon brings a ukulele and fiddle to the mix. Macker occasionally does “double duty” on mandolin or harmony vocals along with her upright bass. And Alpert infuses many of the songs with that inimitable, fast-paced, back porch percussion.

Read more: THE HONEYSUCKLE POSSUMS

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: LUCY BILLINGS - NO OTHER ROAD

TITLE: E AND’A

ARTIST: DAROL ANGER

LABEL: SELF

RELEASE DATE: 2014

By Anya Sturm

Daryl Anger - E ANDADarol Anger is one of the giants of new acoustic music, from being the fiddler in David Grisman’s quartet more than 30 years, to cofounding the Turtle Island String Quartet, to his own current band Republic of Strings. While influenced by traditional music, his arrangements are eclectic and complex, fusing many different styles of music. The emphasis on rhythm, in particular rhythmic chops (but very complex rhythms, not just offbeat chops as a bluegrass mandolinist would do), is a hallmark of his style.

 His latest release, E-and’a is a very energetic CD that follows along his path. The title is a pun referring to 16th note syncopations, as many people subdivide measures by counting: One e and-a, two e and’a, three e and’a, etc. Despite his reputation for eclecticism, this CD has a cohesive bluegrass-influenced sound, while it still hits many different styles instrumentally.

Read more: DAROL ANGER - E AND’A

TITLE: CARRY THE WATER

ARTIST: LUCY BILLINGS

LABEL: SASSY TIME RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: 2014

By Jackie Morris

Carry the Water - Lucy BillingsThe name “Lucy Billings” is finally out of the box. With her third CD – now #6 on the Folk Music Airplay Charts – Billings has created a major album...stunning in its lyrics....with equally beautiful melodies, vocals, instrumentation and production. Produced once again by the acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, John Jennings (who co-wrote two of the songs), Carry the Water is a thoughtful album, deep as a well, with songs that are simultaneously intimate and universal. And Lucy delivers these songs in a voice that is strong and warm, fluid and resonant, taking flight effortlessly in higher registers while never losing that clear, inviting, come-on-in tone.

Billings’ rhythm guitar is solid, as Jennings weaves through her interesting chord progressions with a cool bluesy/jazzy piano and keyboards...various stringed instruments...and additional drums and percussion. With excitingly spare, sophisticated arrangements – allowing you to appreciate every nuanced note and word – the songs are primarily performed by just Billings and Jennings, including backing vocals by each of them. Enhancing this authentic sound is Harry Stinson on drums, Vince Santoro on percussion, and James T. Brown on acoustic and electric bass.

Read more: LUCY BILLINGS - CARRY THE WATER

TITLE: NAMELESS HEART

ARTIST: DONNA LYNN CASKEY

LABEL: CORDULIA MUSIC/BMI

RELEASE DATE: APRIL 1, 2014

PROFILES IN COURAGE

By Ross Altman

Nameless Heart - Donna Lynn CaskeyA poet’s task is to name the world; as Woody Guthrie proclaims in his World War II song The Reuben James:

What were their names

Tell me what were their names

Did you have a friend on the Good Reuben James?

and maintains in his ode to the (at the time) nameless “deportees” that went down in The Plain Wreck at Los Gatos:

You won’t have a name

When you ride the big airplane

All they will call you will be deportees

Read more: DONNA LYNN CASKEY - NAMELESS HEART

TITLE: CAN’T FIX CRAZY

ARTIST: JACKIE MORRIS

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: JACKIE MORRIS - CAN’T FIX CRAZY

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: JEFF GOLD - STREETS CRACKED

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: JANUSZ PRUSINOWSKI TRIO - KNEE DEEP IN HEAVEN

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: ERNEST TROOST - O LOVE

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: NEVENKA - WHEN MARIGOLDS SING

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: LIZ CARROLL - ON THE OFF BEAT

TITLE: SO SANG THE WHIPPOORWILL

ARTIST: RUN BOY RUN

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: RUN BOY RUN - SO SANG THE WHIPPOORWILL

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: DE TEMPS ANTAN - CE MONDE ICI-BAS

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: THE SHOW PONIES - WE RE NOT LOST

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: MOLLY’S REVENGE - TRIO

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: MINDEL & MILLER - CLOSE TO HOME

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: NOCTAMBULE: TRAVEL IN THE SHADOWS

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: THE ONLIES - SETTING OUT TO SEA

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: LILY HENLEY - WORDS LIKE YOURS

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: BRUCE MOLSKY - IF IT AIN'T HERE WHEN I GET BACK

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: BATTLEFIELD BAND - ROOM ENOUGH FOR ALL

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: RUN DOWNHILL - KILBOURN

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: GENTICORUM - ENREGISTRÉ LIVE

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: INFINITE DISTANCE - BIG WIDE ROOM

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: SAM AMIDON - BRIGHT SUNNY SOUTH

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: CLASSIC BANJO FROM SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS PREVIEW

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: SUSIE GLAZE - WHITE SWAN

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: HONEY MAN - HEY MAVIS

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: DANNY KALB - MOVING IN BLUE

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: SPEYSIDE SESSIONS = ARTISTS FROM THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS

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: JUDY AND DICK HYMAN - LATE LAST SUMMER

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: NOTES FOR A NOVEL - ROBERT MORGAN FISHER

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: WINDING CLOCK - ENDA SEERY

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: MY DUSTY ROAD - WOODY GUTHRIE

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: WOODY AT 100 - THE WOODY GUTHRIE CENTENNIAL COLLECTION

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: BARN DANCE - LITTLE BLACK TRAIN

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: KEVIN CRAWFORD - CARRYING THE TUNE

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

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: THE SWEET COLLEENS - CLOSER TO THE SKY

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: DAVID ROVICS - MEANWHILE IN AFGHANISTAN

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: PATRICK D'ARCY - WALLOP THE SPOT

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: TRACY NEWMAN AND THE REINFORCEMENTS - I JUST SEE YOU

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: BOB DYLAN - TEMPEST

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: BRIGHT LAND - CROOKED JADES

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: BANJO DIARY: LESSONS FROM TRADITION

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: EVIE LADIN BAND

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: COWBOYS ON THE SKYLINE - J. W. McCLURE

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: JAYME STONE - ROOM OF WONDERS

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: LARRY HANKS DEBORAH ROBINS NO HIDING PLACE

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: GOTHARD SISTERS - STORY GIRL

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: CLAUDIA NYGAARD-LET THE STORM ROLL IN

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: BARB RYMAN - CATCH THE SUNSET

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: LOST NOTEBOOKS OF HANK WILLIAMS

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: ANONYMOUS 4 -SECRET VOICES

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: THE MORNING STAR - Marla Fibish & Jimmy Crowley

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: SUSIE GLAZE & THE HILONESOME BAND - LIVE AT THE FREIGHT & SALVAGE

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: CALEB KLAUDER - WESTERN COUNTRY

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: THE FOGHORN TRIO - SUD DE LA LOUISIANE

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: BLAME SALLY - SPEEDING TICKET AND A VALENTINE

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: ERNEST TROOST - LIVE AT MCCABES

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: FREEBO - SOMETHING TO BELIEVE

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: DAN LEVITT - FANCY THAT!BANJO ARTISTRY OF DAN LEVITT

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: RAFE & CLELIA STEFANINI - NEVER SEEN THE LIKE...

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: JAMES LEE STANLEY CLIFF EBERHARDT - ALL WOOD AND DOORS

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: JAMES LEE STANLEY - BACKSTAGE AT THE RESURRECTION

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.

Next generation contra dance band, Night Watch, come from the heartland of the tradition, New England, and sound like they've spent many a night playing for swirling lines of dancers in old, vintage dancehalls. Night Watch is one of a growing number of bands that have made the transition from dance band to concert band. Or at least, their debut album, Splendid Isolation, proves that they've got the chops to show just how powerful contra dance music can be for listeners, rather than just dancers.

Welcome to the Contra Dance
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuPbte5knOY)

Read more: THE MUSIC OF CONTRA DANCING

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: FUR DIXON AND STEVE WERNER - SONGS OF THE OPEN ROAD

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: JOHANNA DIVINE - MILE-HIGH RODEO

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: AMY HANAIALI’I AND SLACK KEY MASTERS OF HAWAII

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: JEFF PETERSON - MAUI ON MY MIND

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: LAWRENCE LEBO -DON’T CALL HER LARRY

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.

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Read more: SAUSAGE GRINDER - DELICIOUS MOMENTS

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: CEDRIC WATSON - CREOLE MOON

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: DAVID GREELY - SUD DU SUD

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: THREE MILE STONE - IRISH MUSIC FROM SAN FRANCISCO

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: UNCLE RUTHIE BUELL - THE JACARANDA TREE

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: KEOLA BEAMER & RAIATEA HELM - KEOLA BEAMER & RAIATEA

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: NEIL YOUNG - LE NOISE

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: SABRINA & CRAIG - ONE HOME, ONE HEART

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

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: FISHTANK ENSEMBLE - WOMAN IN SIN

ARTIST: NIGHTINGALE

TITLE: THREE

LABEL: INDEPENDENT

RELEASE DATE: 2004

By Nancy MacMillan

CD Review originally appeared in FolkWorks V4N5 Sep/Oct 2004

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: NIGHTINGALE - THREE

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: BASSEKOU KOUYATE - I SPEAK FULA

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: THE UNWANTED - SONGS FROM THE ATLANTIC FRINGE

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: PETE SEEGER - TOMORROW'S CHILDREN

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: SILVER METEOR (A PROGRESSIVE COUNTRY ANTHOLOGY)

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: PETE SEEGER - LIVE IN ‘65

ARTIST: TOM CORBETT

TITLE: TONIGHT I RIDE

LABEL: ROUNDHOLE RECORDS, 2010

By Russ & Julie Paris

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: TOM CORBETT -TONIGHT I RIDE

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: BREWER LOMNICKY - INSPIRED

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: EVIE LADIN - FLOAT DOWNSTREAM

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: POKEY LA FARGE AND THE SOUTH CITY THREE - RIVERBOAT SOUL

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: THE CHIEFTAINS SAN PATRICIO

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: ALI FARKA TOURÉ AND TOUMANI DIABATÉ - ALI AND TOUMANI

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: GRADA - NATURAL ANGLE

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: CARRIE NEWCOMER - BEFORE & AFTER

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: EUPHONIA - THE OLD JAWBONE

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: EARTHWORM ENSEMBLE I SEE EARTHWORMS IN L.A.

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: THE HAINTS OLD TIME STRING BAND - SHOUT MONAH

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: DAVID BREWER - TURNING PAGES

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: BETH WOOD - BEACHCOMBER'S DAUGHTER

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: JOHNNY RIVERS - SHADOWS ON THE MOON

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: BOULDER ACOUSTIC SOCIETY - PUNCHLINE

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: JENI HANKINS AND BILLY KEMP - JEWELL RIDGE COAL

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: THE NEW LOST CITY RAMBLERS - THE NEW LOST CITY RAMBLERS - 3-VOLUME CD BOXED SET

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: STEVE MANN - ALIVE AND PICKIN' &

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: STEVE MANN - STRAIGHT LIFE

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: LIZ CARROLL AND JOHN DOYLE - DOUBLE PLAY

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: BOB DYLAN - CHRISTMAS IN THE HEART

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: ERNEST TROOST - RESURRECTION BLUES

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: HABERDASHERY - ILLUMINATED ROAD

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: MARIA MULDAUR - MARIA MULDAUR LIVE IN CONCERT

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: JUSTIN ADAMS & JULDEH CAMARA - TELL NO LIES

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: PETER JOSEPH BURTT - HAND TO MOUTH

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: RONNY COX - SONGS...WITH REPERCUSSIONS

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: CHRISTA BURCH - LOVE OF THE LAND

Artist: SHAUN CROMWELL

Title: THE TURNING OF CLOCKS

Label: MELON PATCH RECORDS

Release Date: 2007

BY KELLY MARIE MARTIN

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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: SHAUN CROMWELL - THE TURNING OF CLOCKS

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

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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: RICHARD THOMPSON - THE LIFE AND TIMES OF RICHARD THOMPSON

ARTIST: JEREMY GARRETT

TITLE: I AM A STRANGER

LABEL: SUGAR HILL

RELEASE DATE: March 2009

BY SUSIE GLAZE

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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: JEREMY GARRETT - I AM A STRANGER

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

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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: PETE SEEGER - AMERICAN FAVORITE BALLADS, VOL 1-5

ARTIST: GUY DAVIS

TITLE: SWEETHEART LIKE YOU

LABEL: RED HOUSE (RHR CD 211)

RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 2009

BY DENNIS ROGER REED

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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: GUY DAVIS - SWEETHEART LIKE YOU

ARTIST: FUR DIXON AND STEVE WERNER

TITLE: TRAVELERS

LABEL: GRASS AND GRAVEL RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 1, 2009

BY CARL GAGE

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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: FUR DIXON AND STEVE WERNER - TRAVELERS

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

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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: LA INDIA CANELA - LA INDIA CANELA: MERENGUE TIPICO FROM THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

ARTIST: ROBIN & LINDA WILLIAMS

TITLE: BUENA VISTA

LABEL: RED HOUSE RECORDS

Release Date: September 16, 2008

By Carl Gage

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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: ROBIN & LINDA WILLIAMS - BUENA VISTA

ARTIST: FOGHORN DUO

TITLE: LONESOME SONG

LABEL: SELF-RELEASED

RELEASE DATE: APRIL 2008

By Kelly Marie Martin

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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: FOGHORN DUO - LONESOME SONG

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.

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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: ACOUSTIC WARRIOR JOHN SOTTER - ALONE

ARTIST: EMMYLOU HARRIS

TITLE: ALL I INTENDED TO BE

LABEL: NONESUCH RECORDS

Release Date: Spring 2008

By Susie Glaze

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"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: EMMYLOU HARRIS - ALL I INTENDED TO BE

ARTIST: MERLIN SNIDER

TITLE: RIGHT HERE

LABEL: BARKING DOG MUSIC (Independent)

RELEASE DATE: January 2009

By Carl Gage

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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: MERLIN SNIDER - RIGHT HERE

ARTIST: KATHY MATTEA

TITLE: COAL

LABEL: CAPTAIN POTATO RECORDS

Release Date: April 1, 2008

By Susie Glaze

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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: KATHY MATTEA - COAL

ARTIST: RANDY NEWMAN

TITLE: HARPS AND ANGELS

LABEL: NONESUCH

Release Date:  August 5, 2008

By Terry Roland

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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: RANDY NEWMAN - HARPS AND ANGELS

ARTIST: THE SIMPLY BURNS ARTISTS
(CRAIK, DEWAR, HEPBURN, HEWITT)

TITLE: SIMPLY BURNS

LABEL: DC ASSOCIATES (Independent)

RELEASE DATE: January 2009

By Susie Glaze

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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: THE SIMPLY BURNS ARTISTS - SIMPLY BURNS

Artists: Orlando "Puntilla" Rios Y

El Conjunto Todo Rumbero

Title: Tribute to Gonzalo Asencio, "Tio Tom"

Label: Smithsonian Folkways SFW40543

By Audrey Coleman

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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: PUNTILLA - TRIBUTE TO GONZALO ASENCIO, "TIO TOM"

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

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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: MICHAEL DOUCET - FROM NOW ON

ARTIST: The Holy Modal Rounders

TITLE: Live in 65

LABEL: ESP-Disk

RELEASE DATE: 2008

By Michael Macheret

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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: THE HOLY MODAL ROUNDERS - LIVE IN 65

ARTIST: THE PINE LEAF BOYS

TITLE: BLUES DE MUSICIEN

LABEL: ARHOOLIE CD 533

By Michael Macheret

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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: THE PINE LEAF BOYS - BLUES DE MUSICIEN

ARTIST: Rosalie Sorrels

TITLE: Strangers In Another Country:

The songs of Utah Phillips

LABEL: Red House Records RHR214

By Barry Smiler

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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: ROSALIE SORRELS - STRANGERS IN ANOTHER COUNTRY: THE SONGS OF UTAH PHILLIPS

ARTIST: Louie Gonnie

TITLE: Songs Of The Sacred Circle

LABEL: Canyon Records

By Audrey Coleman

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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: LOUIE GONNIE - SONGS OF THE SACRED CIRCLE

ARTIST: LISSA SCHNECKENBURGER

TITLE: SONG

LABEL: FOOTPRINT RECORDS

By Barry Smiler

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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: LISSA SCHNECKENBURGER - SONG

Artist: The Wilders

Title: SOMEONE'S GOT TO PAY

Label: FREE DIRT RECORDS

Release Date: APRIL 2008

By Kelly Marie Martin

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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: THE WILDERS - SOMEONE'S GOT TO PAY

ARTIST: SOLAS

TITLE: FOR LOVE AND LAUGHTER

LABEL: HITCHHIKE RECORDS

BY AUDREY COLEMAN

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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: SOLAS - FOR LOVE AND LAUGHTER

Artist: RALPH STANLEY II

Title: THIS ONE IS TWO

Label: LONESOME DAY RECORDS LDR013

Release Date: SEPTEMBER 2008

By Dennis Roger Reed

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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 IIis 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: RALPH STANLEY II - THIS ONE IS TWO

Artist: MOLLY'S REVENGE
with MOIRA SMILEY

Title: THE WESTERN SHORE

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

By Brooke Alberts

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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: MOLLY'S REVENGE WITH MOIRA SMILEY - THE WESTERN SHORE

ARTIST: BERNIE PEARL

TITLE: OLD SCHOOL BLUES ACOUSTIC/ELECTRIC

LABEL: BEE BOP MUSIC

THE BLUEST OF BLUES

By Joel Okida

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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.

Read more: BERNIE PEARL - OLD SCHOOL BLUES

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: JUSTIN ADAMS AND JULDEH CAMARA - SOUL SCIENCE

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: ZEN BOY & KARMA GIRL - WHO THEY ARE AND HOW THEY CAME TO BE

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: XUEFEI YANG - 40 DEGREES NORTH

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: JIM STUBBLEFIELD - GUITARRA EXOTICA

ARTIST: JACKIE MORRIS

TITLE: MONEY to BURN

LABEL: BUTTON BOX RECORDS

By Carl Gage

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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: JACKIE MORRIS - MONEY TO BURN

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: TIM DISMANG - HOLY ROADS

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: THE FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS - LAST OF THE RED HOT BURRITOS

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: ELIZA GILKYSON - BEAUTIFUL WORLD

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: SUSIE GLAZE - GREEN KENTUCKY BLUES

ALBUM: TUMBATÚ CUMBÁ

ARTIST: TUMBATÚ CUMBÁ

LABEL: SURAMUSIC

By Enrico Del Zotto

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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: TUMBATÚ CUMBÁ

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: I SEE HAWKS IN LA - HALLOWED GROUND

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

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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: DAVE TRAVIS - 12-STRING CRAZY

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: WICKED TINKERS - RANT

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

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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: JACKSON BROWNE SOLO ACOUSTIC VOL 2

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: NEW ORLEANS BRASS

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: CYRIL PAHINUI - HE’EIA

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: THE BEST OF THE JOHNNY CASH TV SHOW

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: BANJO GATHERING - THE STATE OF MODERN OLD TIME BANJO PLAYING

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: TOM BALL - SOLO GUITAR

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: THE FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS

January-February 2008

ARTIST: BILL STAINES

TITLE: OLD DOGS  

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: BILL STAINES - OLD DOGS

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: JAKE SHIMABUKURO - HULA GIRLS & MY LIFE

November-December 2007

ARTIST: ATHENA TERGIS

TITLE: A LETTER HOME

LABEL: COMPASS RECORDS

By Brooke Alberts

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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: ATHENA TERGIS - A LETTER HOME

November-December 2007

ARTIST: ROBIN & LINDA WILLIAMS

TITLE: RADIO SONGS

LABEL: RED HOUSE

RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 2007

By Michael Macheret

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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: ROBIN & LINDA WILLIAMS - RADIO SONGS

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: RAY BIERL - ANY PLACE I HANG MY HAT

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: APOTHEOSIS OF THE POLKA AND JIGS TO HAUNT YOUR DREAMS

November-December 2007

ARTIST: MARTIN SIMPSON

TITLE: PRODIGAL SON

LABEL: TOPIC RECORDS

By Brooke Alberts

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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: MARTIN SIMPSON - PRODIGAL SON

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

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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: PETER CASE - AS FAR AS YOU CAN GET WITHOUT A PASSPORT

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: ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO - OYAYA!

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

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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: DANNY FLOWERS - TOOLS FOR THE SOUL

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: FISHTANK ENSEMBLE - SAMURAI OVER SERBIA

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: PINT & DALE - THE SET OF THE SAIL

September-October 2007

Artist: KEOLA BEAMER

Title: KA HIKINA O KA HAU

(THE COMING OF THE SNOW)

Label: DANCING CAT

By Audrey Coleman

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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: KEOLA BEAMER - KA HIKINA O KA HAU

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: RAIATEA HELM - HAWAIIAN BLOSSOM

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: SUKHAWAT ALI KHAN -SHUKRIYA CD Review

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: DOWN HOME WITH THE GOIN' SOUTH BAND

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: JAKE SHIMABUKURO -GENTLY WEEPS

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: BOB WEBB AND THE BANJO - FULL CIRCLE: THE SOLO BANJO SESSIONS

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: CAOIMHIN O’RAGHALLAIGH - WHERE THE ONE-EYED MAN IS KING

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: AMY HANAIALII - GENERATION HAWAI'I

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: SCOTT MILLER & THE COMMONWEALTH - CITATION

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: CHRIS WHITLEY & JEFF LANG - DISLOCATION BLUES

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: JEREMY SPENCER - PRECIOUS LITTLE

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: THE POETRY OF DIANA JONES

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: JOHN ‘THE YANK' HARRINGTON - A CELTIC CENTURY

CARRIE NEWCOMER IN CONCERT

WITH PIANIST GARY WALTERS

PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY SMOTHERS THEATRE - LISA SMITH WENGLER CENTER FOR THE ARTS

SUNDAY JANUARY 21, 2018; 7:00 PM

THE REAL VEEP FROM INDIANA

By Ross Altman, PhD

Carrie NewcomerForget about Mike Pence, Mr. President; send Carrie Newcomer to Israel; the Indiana folk singer is so positive, optimistic, and filled with a belief in the shared humanity of man she will have Netanyahu and Abbas eating out of the palm of her hand before the first hummus is passed around—and come back with a two-state solution that will reconcile a centuries’ long conflict before your next tweet. 

Read more: CARRIE NEWCOMER IN CONCERT

GABRIEL KAHANE’S 8980: BOOK OF TRAVELERS

AT THE THEATRE AT ACE HOTEL

SATURDAY, JANUARY 20, 2018; 8:00PM

BOUND FOR GLORY

By Ross Altman, PhD

Gabriel KahanePart folk; part classical; part pop; part musical theatre, and all modernist art; New York City’s highly touted singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane presented the most amazing set of new songs last night at the Theatre at Ace Hotel I have heard since a young John Prine opened at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago in 1971. 

Read more: GABRIEL KAHANE’S 8980: BOOK OF TRAVELERS

THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA

CHRISTMAS SHOW AT THE THEATRE AT ACE HOTEL SUNDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2017

PRESENTED BY CAP-UCLA

FEATURING PRESERVATION HALL LEGACY HORNS AND RUTHIE FOSTER!

OLD TIME RELIGION

By Ross Altman, PhD

Blind Boys of Alabama 2
Photo by Kathleen Schenck.
“I still have a dream that one day down in Alabama—with its vicious racists…
A state sweltering with the heat of oppression—the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood…”
 ~MLK~ I Have a Dream; August 28, 1963

Eighteen days after Dr. King gave the most inspiring speech of the civil rights movement four members of the Ku Klux Klan bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama and killed four young black girls who were attending choir practice that morning. What has that to do with the Blind Boys of Alabama? Nothing; and everything: their concert dovetailed with a lot that’s been on my mind this past week.

Read more: THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA

AN EVENING WITH THE OAK RIDGE BOYS

AT THE GRAMMY MUSEUM CLIVE DAVIS THEATER - FEBRUARY 15, 2018~ 8:00 PM

GOT ANY OAK RIDGE BOYS?

By Ross Altman, PhD

Oak Ridge Boys 3I don’t think Elvira is in Rise Up Singing~ it’s made too much money. But for anyone who loves gospel and country music the Grammy Museum was the only place to be last night, as the reigning kings of both—Country Music Hall of Fame members and five-time Grammy-winning The Oak Ridge Boys—held forth for an hour-and-a-half riveting conversation and magnetic live performance of their gospel, crossover and country-rock hits over the last four decades.

Read more: OAK RIDGE BOYS AT GRAMMY MUSEUM

KINKY FRIEDMAN

MCCABE’S GUITAR SHOP - NOVEMBER 18, 2017

ANOTHER SIDE OF KINKY FRIEDMAN

By Ross Altman, PhD

Kinky FriedmanI’ve heard some great concerts over the years—the best of the best from Bob Dylan and Joan Baez to Van Morrison, Mavis Staples, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard—and reviewed them all gratefully in these pages. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more moving concert than Kinky Friedman gave at McCabe’s last night. 

Read more: KINKY FRIEDMAN

SUSIE GLAZE NEW FOLK ENSEMBLE

AN AMERICANA FOLK FUSION

BECKMAN INSTITUTE AUDITORIUM AT CALTECH PASADENA

SATURDAY NIGHT NOVEMBER 11, 2017

PRESENTED BY THE PASADENA FOLK MUSIC SOCIETY

By Art Podell

Susie Glaze New Folk Ensemble pictureI admit that I am a sucker for a menu of acoustic music splashed with Celtic seasoning. Especially when it’s served up by artists with impeccable voices and musicians who care more about the song they are playing than what the couple in the second row thinks of their guitar licks or their hairdos. So when FolkWorks asked me to review the Susie Glaze New Folk Ensemble concert at the Caltech Beckman Institute Auditorium, it was a no-brainer for me.

Read more: SUSIE GLAZE NEW FOLK ENSEMBLE

RHIANNON GIDDENS

MACARTHUR GENIUS GRANT RECIPIENT COMES TO DISNEY

WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL - OCTOBER 25, 2017

By Ross Altman, PhD

Rhiannon GiddensGrammy-Award winning string band Carolina Chocolate Drops brought singer-songwriter Rhiannon Giddens to national prominence, though each member of the band is now on their own. Giddens has embarked on a solo career that reached a pinnacle of success last night at Walt Disney Concert Hall in a sold out debut performance celebrated by the most enthusiastic and immediate standing ovation I have ever witnessed.

Read more: RHIANNON GIDDENS

BARBARA DANE - A PROFILE IN COURAGE

CAP-UCLA AT ROYCE HALL OCTOBER 21, 2017

CELEBRATING A LIFETIME OF JAZZ, BLUES AND SONGS FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE

By Ross Altman, PhD

Barbara Dane 2

It isn’t nice to block the doorways

It isn’t nice to go to jail

There are nicer ways to do it,

But the nice ways always fail…

The Big D is back—Barbara Dane—her music publishing company named for her big “D” 28—Dreadnought Music—her tribute to the guitar that carried her through the silent fifties and tumultuous sixties—and she is still singing Malvina Reynolds’ paean to civil disobedience.

Read more: BARBARA DANE - A PROFILE IN COURAGE

JOHN HAMMOND

AT MCCABE’S - SEPTEMBER 29, 2017~THE LATE SHOW

THE MAN WITH THE BLUE GUITAR

By Ross Altman, PhD

John Hammond Jr“They said you have a blue guitar~ you don’t play things as they are…” Wallace Stevens

The man with the blue guitar descended the staircase and walked onstage with a shock of white hair and a big smile.

I’ve been to the mountaintop—I’ve looked over—and I’ve seen the Promised Land—and John Hammond was playing the blues. Welcome to McCabe’s last Friday night—September 29, 2017, Yom Kippur. The Day of Atonement if you’re Jewish, and if you’re not, well listening to John Hammond you can’t help but feel you are atoning for something. Belying that welcoming big smile his voice hits so many notes of pure anguish only a rabbi could tell the difference. Whatever his sins may have been, his soul-wrenching cross-harp harmonica, note-bending finger-style blues unplugged acoustic guitar and single cone resonator playing bottle-neck slide guitar would have melted the Lord’s heart. It certainly melted mine.

Read more: JOHN HAMMOND - MCCABE’S - SEPTEMBER 29, 2017

LAMPEDUSA CONCERT FOR REFUGEES:

JOAN BAEZ, STEVE EARLE, DAVE MATHEWS, LUCINDA WILLIAMS

PATTY GRIFFIN, BRANDI CARLYLE, AND THE MASTERSONS

AT THE WILTERN THEATRE - OCTOBER 10, 2017; 8:00PM

VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED

By Ross Altman, PhD

lampedusaA roomful of acoustic guitars and their hearts in the right place~ if music could change the world this concert would have saved the 366 Eritrean refugees who perished at sea before they could reach Lampedusa—an eight-square mile island off the coast of Sicily on October 3, 2013. 

Read more: LAMPEDUSA CONCERT FOR REFUGEES:

WILLIE NELSON IN CONCERT

SHRINE AUDITORIUM LOS ANGELES - THURSDAY, AUGUST 17, 2017~9:30PM

THE VOICE OF AMERICA

By Ross Altman, PhD

Willie Nelson at Shrine AuditoriumClimbing high up the half dozen long staircases to the second Mezzanine with my $43 ticket in hand—followed by another long staircase to the very top of the Shrine Auditorium—I was unwittingly high with no effort from myself, just from the second-hand marijuana smoke impossible to avoid. But I was in the building in time for Willie’s entire concert—from Whiskey River to his show-stopping closer: Roll Me Up and Smoke Me when I Die. His closer used to be On the Road Again, but he let that one out of the Great American Songbag (except for Hank Williams and Hoagie Carmichael, most of which he wrote) only 20 minutes into the show.

Read more: WILLIE NELSON IN CONCERT

ROY BOOK BINDER RETURNS

MCCABE’S GUITAR SHOP - JUNE 11, 2017 8:00 PM

ROAD SCHOLAR

By Ross Altman, PhD

Roy Book BinderBlues and ragtime finger-style guitarist Roy Book Binder has come a long way since paying Harlem street singer and preacher Reverend Gary Davis $5 for guitar lessons. That was 49 years ago—when he started his quixotic career as a modern inheritor of the great American blues tradition going back to its founding father W.C. Handy’s St. Louis Blues in 1914. Book Binder has been on the road since 1968, when he recorded his first song for Blue Goose Records—Jimmy Rodgers’ He’s In the Jailhouse Now. You could see and feel his enthusiasm for the upcoming milestone in every song he sang and carefully crafted story he told to enlarge the context for his songs~ he mentioned several times that next year would be his fiftieth anniversary as a performing and recording artist, and he felt privileged to have been able to make a living doing what he loves to do. He thanked McCabe’s loyal audience for helping to make it possible, and our standing ovation expressed our own appreciation for his dedication.

Read more: ROY BOOK BINDER RETURNS

ROY ZIMMERMAN: REZIST

ZIMMERMAN’S TRAVELS

LIVE AT MCCABE’S - JULY 23, 2017~ 8:00PM

CENTER FOR INQUIRY ~STEVE ALLEN THEATRE - JULY 23, 2017~ 11:00AM

By Ross Altman, PhD

Roy ZimmermanGod’s gift to topical songwriters President Trump accepted White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s resignation last Friday, prompting Roy Zimmerman to say, “He’s got the 2nd hardest job in Washington, next to (fired FBI Director) James Comey’s food taster—and Robert Mueller’s car starter.” Spicer timed his departure for Zimmerman’s new ReZist Tour. Roy Zimmerman is America’s Songwriter in Chief. He is transcendently, mercilessly funny, as when he refers to the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love as “the Jefferson Facelift Tour.” He opens the morning Atheists United show with his satirical

Read more: ROY ZIMMERMAN: REZIST JULY, 2017

IN SEARCH OF THE FIRST BLUES SONG:

PARIS REVIEW AT BEYOND BAROQUE - FRIDAY, JUNE 30, 2017

By Ross Altman, PhD

Bronze Statue of W.C. Handy"...Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues, in the middle of the pouring rain. W.C. Handy, won't you look down over me?" (Walking in Memphis, Marc Cohn, 1991)

 “William Christopher Handy (November 16, 1873 – March 28, 1958) was an American composer and musician, known as the "Father of the Blues."” (Wikipedia) And they might have added for the record; W.C. Handy was African-American.  “I hate to see that evening sun go down.” Is Pluto about to get demoted? There’s only one way to find out.

Read more: IN SEARCH OF THE FIRST BLUES SONG

JONATHAN EDWARDS

In Concert at McCabe’s - Friday, June 9, 2017

The Honky-Tonk Stardust Cowboy Rides Into McCabe’s

By Ross Altman, PhD

Jonathan EdwardsIf you still think protest songs have to be angry, bitter, and one-dimensional, you haven’t met Minnesota-born folk singer-songwriter Jonathan Edwards. The original Honky Tonk Stardust Cowboy rode into McCabe’s Guitar Shop on Friday night, and set the place on fire. “One man standing up there all alone with a guitar and harmonica—you gotta appreciate that,” said my friend Ellen Sway as we walked out—and we both certainly did. It was like watching an episode of the Lone Ranger—except our hero—who saved the town in two hours—wore no mask. He was utterly self-effacing and transparent throughout.

Read more: JONATHAN EDWARDS

TIME BEYOND THE TIME

ART PODELL'S FOLK MUSIC REVIVAL REVIVAL

Reprinted with permission Theater Times.

JP and Julie return to the Tudor House June 24, 2017

By Cristofer Gross

Art Podell
Art Podell.

Once a month, the 

Tudor House in Lake Arrowhead presents a live Saturday night taping of JP Houston and Julie Van Dusen's American Parlor Songbook. It's an evening of humor, song and cultural pulse-taking whose broad perspectives owe to an unapologetic embrace of bygone and bye-bye-going eras.

On April 1, that perspective was widened by musical and comedy guests whose active careers stretch back to the 1960s.

The live American Parlor Songbook shows, here and at other venues during the year, provide material for two hour-long radio programs that air Sundays at 4pm on San Bernardino's NPR-affiliate, KVCR, and on a nationwide network of primarily public radio stations. It is also posted as a podcast on the APS website.

Read more: ART PODELL - TIME BEYOND THE TIME

THE LAST THING ON TOM PAXTON'S MIND

MCCABE’S - SATURDAY, APRIL 1, 2017

By Ross Altman, PhD

Tom PaxtonNow we know why they call them Dreadnoughts. Tom Paxton’s late great Santa Cruz Dreadnought (modeled after Martin’s famed D-28 and named like Martin’s for a stalwart British battleship) was smashed in an escalator fall Paxton sustained in Penn Station last year. But he was carrying it on his back and it cushioned his fall, thus likely saving him from a broken back or even saving his life. He brought it up during his concert, after I had already noted that he was playing his old Martin M-38, which I hadn’t seen him play since the late 1990s. 

Read more: THE LAST THING ON TOM PAXTON'S MIND

YEMEN BLUES WITH CHLOE POURMORADY ENSEMBLE

PICO UNION PROJECT LOS ANGELES - MARCH 25, 2017 - 7:30PM

LOUD, PROUD, AND STILL DRAWS A CROWD

By Ross Altman, PhD

Ravid Kahalani"It doesn't matter where you come from, your language is my language" (Ravid Kahalani)

Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Libya—and Yemen—those are the six countries left on the president’s new travel ban, once he removed Iraq to try to get around the original objections to his original ban on seven Muslim countries. I guess his son-in-law Jared Kushner neglected to mention that there were some Jews in Yemen—500—from which the four-member band Yemen Blues was formed. 

Read more: YEMEN BLUES WITH CHLOE POURMORADY ENSEMBLE

Roy Zimmerman: ReZist!

At the Steve Allen Theatre - Sunday, January 22, 2017

This Could Be the Start of Something Big

By Ross Altman, PhD

Roy ZimmermanSinging satirist Roy Zimmerman has been writing “funny songs about ignorance, war and greed” since I first met him twenty-five years ago, when he led The Foremen, who were the modern inheritors of the legacy of the Chad Mitchell Trio and Tom Lehrer. He has since become a nationwide solo recording and performing artist who has toured in all fifty states. Recently he has gone where no leftwing folksinger dared to go before him—creating what he called “the blue dot tour,” finding small pockets of liberal Democratic Blue in the reddest of Red States—even if it meant one Unitarian Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming—or “Universalist” Church (to which he referred by saying “I’ve now learned the difference.”)

Read more: ROY ZIMMERMAN: REZIST!

Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton in Concert

With Frank Fairfield and Meredith Axelrod

At Cody’s Viva Cantina in Burbank - January 14, 2017

By Ross Altman, PhD

~1~

Jerrod Blind Boy Paxton“Never was a white man had the blues.” ~Lead Belly

The black songster (he resists the label “blues singer”) Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton is just twelve days shy of his 28th birthday—and it can’t happen too soon for me.

Robert Johnson, the King of the Delta Blues, recorded his legendary twenty-nine tracks in 1936 and 1937. The following year, at age 27, he was dead, poisoned by the husband of the wife with whom Johnson was cheating on his own wife. He was a member of the ill-fated star-crossed cursed “27 club” which included Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Tim Hardin—all from heroin addiction.

Read more: “BLIND BOY” PAXTON AND AXELROD AND FAIRFIELD IN CONCERT

Joan Baez: Nasty Woman!

Disney Hall - November 5, 2016, 8:00pm

By Ross Altman, PhD

Joan BaezJoan Baez wore her politics on her T-shirt as she walked out on the stage of Disney Hall to a standing ovation before she even picked up her Martin OO-45 in front of the microphone. The audience was roaring at the proud irony of her black T-shirt—emblazoned with the words Nasty Woman in front—turning Donald Trump’s putdown of Hillary Clinton in the third debate on its head—and wearing it as a banner. Her quixotic humor brought her long history of feminism back home to Disney’s beautiful music hall last Saturday night.

Read more: JOAN BAEZ: NASTY WOMAN!

TOGETHER AGAIN - THE TIME JUMPERS IN CONCERT

The Smothers Theatre, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA - September 30, 2016

By Ross Altman, PhD

Time JumpersThe Magnificent Seven ride into Southern California Friday evening, and in place of Denzel Washington, or before him Yul Brynner, they bring 20-time Grammy Winner Vince Gill. He doesn’t pack a gun, but a Gibson and a Fender Telecaster, and a gang of great Nashville studio musicians ready to take on Eli Wallach’s gang of bandits and defend a vision of America that has been increasingly hard to see these past couple of years.

Read more: TOGETHER AGAIN - THE TIME JUMPERS IN CONCERT

Iris DeMent in Concert

The Smothers Theatre, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA - September 29, 2016

The Best Singer Merle Haggard Ever Heard

By Ross Altman, PhD

Iris DementThe youngest of 14 children, Iris DeMent must have had to yell a little louder to be heard above her older brothers and sisters growing up in the Arkansas Delta. Those early childhood needs evolved into what Merle Haggard called “The best singer I’ve ever heard” when he invited her to join his touring band upon the release of her first album Infamous Angel in 1992. She returns the tribute by opening with one of his lesser known songs at the keyboard of a grand piano—where she spends the entire evening playing and serenading the grateful audience at the Smothers Theatre at Pepperdine University with her two piece band on upright bass and pedal steel guitar. She also pays tribute to “The First Lady of Country Music,” in whose shoes she is proud to walk, Tammy Wynette.

Read more: IRIS DEMENT IN CONCERT

ATASH'S RAUCOUS UNIVERSAL LOVE VIBRATION

Silverlake Lounge and Garage Gallery, June 24-25, 2016

By Tom Cheyney

AtashIt was not just another normal Friday night. Brexit was sinking in, Ralph Stanley had exited to the high lonesome holler in the sky, and the Dodgers had yet to find a consistent starter not named Kershaw. On the ground, I forgot my wallet at home, got all the way to ordering my first Pacifico before I realized my empty pocket, skedaddled back to my parking metered car, and jammed home in disgrace. (OK, maybe not disgrace so much as annoyance: I live only 10 minutes away from the Silverlake Lounge.)

Read more: ATASH'S RAUCOUS UNIVERSAL LOVE VIBRATION

How to Tell the Real Bob Dylan

In Concert at the Shrine Auditorium - June 16, 2016

By Ross Altman, PhD

Bob DylanStately, skinny Bob Dylan came from the stairhead, bearing a metal harmonica rack on which an acoustic Gibson guitar and “G” harp lay crossed. He opened with The Times, They Are A-Changing. But this was fifty-three ago, 1963, at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. This evening, at the Shrine Auditorium, he enters with a white, broad-brimmed hat reinforced with white coat and steps up to the microphone in front of a five-piece band with the opening strains of his Oscar-winning song, Things Have Changed.

Read more: HOW TO TELL THE REAL BOB DYLAN

THE SHOW PONIES IN THE WINNER’S CIRCLE

WITH MOONSHINER COLLECTIVE AT BOOTLEG THEATER, MAY 20, 2016

By Tom Cheyney

The Show PoniesOn a clear night when a full moon’s south pole glow spread like a mountain man’s beard, The Show Ponies tapped deep into their own particularly luminous brand of rockin’ string-band Americana at the Bootleg. Rambunctiously professional musicianship, tightly wrapped harmonies, rootsy soulfulness and an evangelical-edged zest for living brought band and fans together in a sweaty salvational embrace.

Read more: THE SHOW PONIES IN THE WINNER’S CIRCLE

HELLO IN THERE: JOHN PRINE

With Jason Isbell And Amanda Shires

At The Greek Theatre, May 13, 2016

By Susie Glaze

John PrineThe fact that John Prine is not the permanent Poet Laureate of these United States from which he sprang is a crime upon natural justice that must be remedied and I hereby will begin a petition to place him there, along with a solid place in all the music halls of fame that can be found. He is also not a household name, except for those of us who revere his work beyond measure and consider it sacred territory along with other giant poet troubadours such as Hank Williams and Bob Dylan. I invite any of you reading this article to get his music, early or late, and listen and read, to understand what he’s given to country folk singer-songwriter music and us in his grateful listening audience for this, an amazing and brilliant 40 + year career.

Read more: HELLO IN THERE: JOHN PRINE

Eric Andersen at McCabe’s

A Bard by Any Other Name - April 23, 1616—April 23, 2016

By Ross Altman, PhD

Eric Anderson“All the world’s a stage,” said William Shakespeare, but there’s only one McCabe’s. April 23, 1616, four hundred years ago tonight, Shakespeare, the greatest poet in the English language, passed away. But Eric Andersen is still here, so the English language is in good hands. He performed at McCabe’s this evening, a quarto of the best songs written over the past fifty years—including Thirsty Boots, Violets of Dawn, Amsterdam and Close the Door Lightly When You Go. It was a pleasure and an inspiration to observe the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in the company of an artist who avoids the name “singer-songwriter” in preference to a higher calling: song poet, which describes Eric Andersen to a “T.” For tonight, though, let’s just call him the bard.

Read more: ERIC ANDERSEN AT MCCABE’S

THE WOMAN IN BLACK:
LUCINDA WILLIAMS
WITH BILL FRISELL

UCLA Royce Hall - March 4, 2016

By Ross Altman, PhD

Lucinda WIlliamsSteve Earle once said of Townes Van Zandt, “He is America’s best songwriter, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.” The author of Pancho and Lefty is now gone, leaving that position vacant. So Time Magazine filled it in 2002 with a cover story on Lucinda Williams called “America’s Best Songwriter.” Her Grammy-winning album Car Wheels On a Gravel Road defined a new voice in American songwriting—one that claimed her roots in poetry as well as song. Her father was a poet.

Read more: THE WOMAN IN BLACK: LUCINDA WILLIAMS

Have Guitar, Will Travel: Bill Frisell

at the Skirball Cultural Center - February 25, 2016

By Ross Altman PhD

Bill Frissell and Petra HadenThe guitar may have been invented in Spain in the 1400s, but it was reinvented at the Skirball Cultural Center last night. Jazz guitarist Bill Frisell is part musician and part ingenious inventor, and the most unlikely guitar hero you will see this side of Paladin.

The latest stop on his When You Wish Upon a Star tour landed at the Skirball Thursday, February 25, where he brought his six-shooter (I meant to say six-stringer) to rescue some classic Hollywood songs and scores from boring arrangements and familiar soundtracks. Like other western heroes he celebrates from Bonanza, Once Upon a Time in the West and Happy Trails his business card should read: Have Guitar, Will Travel.

Read more: HAVE GUITAR, WILL TRAVEL: BILL FRISELL

In This Guitar We Trust: Dion

at the Grammy Museum, February 24, 2016

By Ross Altman, PhD

Dion with Paul SimonThe usual path of a folk singer on the rise is to start out solo acoustic and then go electric, form a band and don’t look back. You may recall one who did just that—at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Dion DiMucci has traveled the road not taken, and done just the opposite. He started out as the front man for Dion and the Belmonts, and scored such major hits as The Wanderer, Runaround Sue and Ruby Baby.

Read more: IN THIS GUITAR WE TRUST: DION

Darryl Holter Tangled Up in Dylan

at the Caña Rum Bar - February 19, 2016

By Ross Altman, PhD

Darryl HolterDateline, Los Angeles~ The hottest ticket in town turned out to be in a hidden rum bar in the unknown Petroleum Building in the 700 block of Olympic Blvd downtown tonight, just a block away from the Grammy Museum. An SRO crowd (I know, because I was standing throughout) saw local folkie historian Darryl Holter—co-author of the new book Woody Guthrie LA 1937-1941 (see my review)—in a show he called Holter Does Dylan. It was also it turns out a birthday present to himself, for when I got there I saw a beautiful birthday cake in front of the stage, and Darryl was tuning up in front of the microphone.

Read more: DARRYL HOLTER TANGLED UP IN DYLAN

WHO KNOWS WHERE THE TIME GOES, JUDY COLLINS

At the Rose in Pasadena - Sunday, February 14, 2016

By Ross Altman, PhD

Judy CollinsJudy Collins is seventy-six years old, but her voice is still twenty-one and angelic; how, I have no idea—the gods have smiled on her from on high, but she has done all the rest. “Listen to the pipes on that septuagenarian!” exclaimed Jill Fenimore, who ooed and awed throughout. Collins gave a dreamy Valentine’s Day concert last night at the Rose in Pasadena—a brand new venue (this was its opening night) “where music meets the soul.”

Read more: WHO KNOWS WHERE THE TIME GOES, JUDY COLLINS

BONNIE RAITT

at the Valley Performing Arts Center - February 22, 2016

No Ticket, No Seat, No Problem

By Ross Altman, PhD

Bonnie RaittI never parachuted over the Berlin Wall, escaped from Alcatraz, or wriggled out of unbreakable handcuffs with my hands behind my back tied up in rope and submerged in a tank of water; but on George Washington’s birthday I did slip past a phalanx of security guards and ushers to crash the sold-out Bonnie Raitt concert at CSUN; the things we do for love. She was in fine form—her electric Fender Stratocaster and acoustic double-pick guard Guild Jumbo guitars providing roof-raising, earth shaking and heart-breaking accompaniment—and a brand new gospel song on keyboards from her upcoming (20th) album. It was like watching the Indy 500 on a good day—a thrill a minute on the edge of your seat ride—if you were lucky enough to have a seat—which I wasn’t.

Read more: BONNIE RAITT at the Valley Performing Arts Center

190 PROOF & 24 CARAT GOLD - MERLE HAGGARD AND KRIS KRISTOFFERSON

The Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills - February 11, 2016

By Ross Altman, PhD

Merle and KrisMerle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson were originally scheduled to perform December 9, 2015, on my birthday (see my preview written this past November). In violation of the first law of show business the show did not go on. It had to be rescheduled when Haggard came down with pneumonia.

Read more: 190 PROOF & 24 CARAT GOLD - MERLE HAGGARD AND KRIS KRISTOFFERSON

THE JONES FAMILY SINGERS

Pepperdine University - Friday, February 5, 2016

From Russia to Malibu with Love

By Ross Altman, PhD

Jones FamilyRussians don’t speak much English; they knew only a few words, but they really needed only one to understand the nine-member African-American Jones Family Singers: Jesus. In an hour and a half part concert-part revival meeting they would have heard many times—as many times as Bruce Springsteen will sing Born in the USA, the Jones Family Singers will sing Come to me, Jesus! to the same effect—one powerful mantra that sums up their entire message.

Read more: THE JONES FAMILY SINGERS

Preaching the Blues with John Hammond, Jr.

The Late Show at McCabe’s - January 29, 2016

By Ross Altman, PhD

John Hammond JrJohn Hammond Jr.’s National Steel guitar is seven years older than he is. I saw Hammond in twelve bars last night, and the late show at McCabe’s. America’s greatest blues singer and guitarist and harmonica player is the wrong color—“Never was a white man had the blues,” said Lead Belly. No one told John Hammond, Jr. who is now an elder statesman at 73 and still preaching the blues—ever since 1962, when he started his career right here in Los Angeles. I saw him on my late mother Rose’s Centenary—January 29, 1916-January 29, 2016—for which I wanted to do something special to celebrate.

Read more: PREACHING THE BLUES WITH JOHN HAMMOND, JR.

TOMMY EMMANUEL IN CONCERT

Pepperdine Smothers Theatre - January 20, 2016

Certified Guitar Player and a Class Act

By Ross Altman, PhD

Tommy EmmanuelThe Grand Canyon, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Pyramids of Ancient Egypt, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Sphinx, to those and the other 8 Wonders of the World you can add Certified Guitar Player Tommy Emmanuel, who gave a spectacular concert last night (January 20, 2016) at the Pepperdine University Smothers Theatre in Malibu.

Read more: TOMMY EMMANUEL IN CONCERT

MARC COHN IN CONCERT

Pepperdine Smothers Theatre - JANUARY 16, 2016

Reflections on the 25th Anniversary
Of Walking in Memphis

By Ross Altman, PhD

Marc CohnSinger-Songwriter Marc Cohn broke through to a national audience 25 years ago with his 1991 hit Walking in Memphis. But before he could walk in Memphis this Cleveland songwriter had to fly there, and thereby hangs a tale. James Taylor no less gave him the idea—to break out of a spell of writer’s block. Taylor told him to “try a geographic,” change his locale, get out of familiar places and habits and shake his mind up so it might be receptive to new experiences and ideas. Marc Cohn was telling this story last night by way of introducing his hit song and how it came to be written.

Read more: WALKING IN MEMPHIS: MARC COHN IN CONCERT

Here Comes the Knight: Van Morrison Live

At the Shrine Auditorium - Friday January 15, 2016

By Ross Altman, PhD

Van MorrisonForget about Celtic Soul, forget about Irish Mystic, forget about Belfast Cowboy, and above all forget about 1970s soft-rock—all the comfortable hybrids we’ve grown accustomed to using to describe this now-70-year old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer-songwriter from Northern Ireland. Last night I heard the greatest pure blues singer of my life in downtown Los Angeles at the Shrine Auditorium

Read more: HERE COMES THE KNIGHT: VAN MORRISON LIVE

THE JOE HILL 100 ROADSHOW ROLLS INTO TOWN

BURBANK IATSE LOCAL 80 - FRIDAY NOVEMBER 6, 2015

By Ross Altman, PhD

Joe Hill Roadshow Burbank flyerGrassroots superstar progressive troubadour David Rovics and the Joe Hill Road Show 100 rolled into town last night at the most fitting venue imaginable—a union hall in Burbank. It was like the reappearance of the Almanac Singers circa 2015—for as Woody said, “You never knew which ones were going to show up for any particular show.” The lineup for the Joe Hill Road Show changes depending on which part of the country they are in, what the airfares happen to be and what the local conditions are on the ground.

Read more: THE JOE HILL 100 ROADSHOW ROLLS INTO TOWN

AN EVENING WITH RANDY NEWMAN:

IN CONCERT AT ROYCE HALL - OCTOBER 3, 2015

I LOVE (UC) LA

By Ross Altman PhD

Randy NewmanNo introduction, no fanfare, no preliminary announcements of upcoming events—when the lights went down at a few minutes after 8:00pm Randy Newman—dressed in a simple black pullover with a gold abstract design on the front, black jeans and worn tennis shoes—walked purposefully yet somewhat diffidently from the wings across to center stage, where a roar of applause and anticipation met his silent bow and whimsical smile. 

Read more: AN EVENING WITH RANDY NEWMAN

MARTY STUART AND HIS FABULOUS SUPERLATIVES

FROM MUSIC CITY TO SURF CITY

LISA SMITH WENGLER CENTER FOR THE ARTS

AT PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY IN MALIBU: THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2015

By Ross Altman, PhD

martystuart polaroid8bw2When he was thirteen years old Marty Stuart ran away to join the circus—the Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs bluegrass band. He was a child prodigy on both guitar and mandolin and at thirteen became their lead mandolin player. He never looked back.

I had a near-death experience last night in Malibu, ninety minutes in Heaven that made me a believer—in Marty Stuart’s recreation of the traditional country music I grew up on—and have long since stopped hearing on any radio station or TV show claiming to broadcast country music today. I thought it no longer existed, except in my dusty LP record collection.

Read more: MARTY STUART AND HIS FABULOUS SUPERLATIVES

TOM PAXTON SAYS FAREWELL ON 9/11

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES: AT MCCABE’S GUITAR SHOP (SEPTEMBER 11, 2015)

By Ross Altman, PhD

Tom Paxton

Dylan, Paxton and Ochs

Started out singing for Cokes

Bob super-starred; Phil died hard

But Tom still sings for the folks.

~Ross Altman

The last thing on Tom Paxton’s mind last Friday night at McCabe’s was that this may be the last time he would be there. He still had a show to do, and a great show it was.

Read more: TOM PAXTON SAYS FAREWELL ON 9/11

FROM APPALACHIA TO BULGARIA:

SOARING TONES, RAUCOUS RHYTHMS TO FILL LITTLE TOKYO THEATER

By Audrey Coleman

Varimezov  and VOCOHas your musical diet has been lacking world and traditional music lately? On Saturday, April 18 at the Aratani Theatre, you’ll have a chance to gorge yourself, aurally speaking. Fans of Moira Smiley and her VOCO ensemble know that her repertoire ranges from traditional American shape note singing to heart-rending East European melodies and on to provocative creations combining vocal lines with percolating body percussion. What a gift to Los Angeles lovers of world and traditional music that these musicians will share a program with the world-renowned Varimezov Family Band.

Read more: FROM APPALACHIA TO BULGARIA - Varimezov and VOCO

MARTIN CARTHY: THE GHOST IN THE ATTIC

BAEZ, DYLAN, AND SIMON’S EARLY INFLUENCE COMES TO MCCABE’S APRIL 4, 2015

By Ross Altman, PhD

Martin and Eliza Carthy
Photo by Ron Crum.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Not without Martin Carthy you’re not, Mr. Paul Simon; who stole Carthy’s arrangement and album title from the British traditional song for Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Nor was Bob Dylan dreaming when he wrote Bob Dylan’s Dream for Freewheelin’ in 1963; he too stole Martin Carthy’s arrangement of the British traditional ballad Lord Franklin’s Lament for the tune without credit. And don’t leave out Joan Baez; she too was poaching the king’s deer—for songs like The Trees They Do Grow High, and Queen of Hearts.

Read more: MARTIN CARTHY: THE GHOST IN THE ATTIC

THE CONFESSIONS OF ARLO GUTHRIE, CONFIDENCE MAN

FOR 50TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR

DISNEY HALL, APRIL 6, 2015

By Ross Altman, PhD

Arlo with Woody stampThe greatest German novelist of the 20th Century started a novel in 1911 that he didn’t finish until 1954—about a confidence man named Felix Krull who pulls his greatest con against a medical officer in charge of his military physical to process him for conscription into the army. Krull tries to beat the system by feigning a serious illness (epilepsy) so as to be disqualified from serving. In the process he pretends that he is entirely pro-military and wants nothing more than to be drafted and serve his country—even promoting the lowly officer up the ranks to that of major before the physical is completed. The scene he creates is so absurd as to defy belief, inspire gut-wrenching laughter and finally disqualify him from the army. The novel is entitled The Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man.

Read more: THE CONFESSIONS OF ARLO GUTHRIE, CONFIDENCE MAN

LEO KOTTKE IN CONCERT - AS GOOD AS IT GETS

PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY - SMOTHERS’ THEATRE—LISA SMITH WENGLER CENTER FOR THE ARTS - JANUARY 31, 2015

By Ross Altman, PhD

Leo KottkeHe fingerpicks without fingerpicks, can’t keep a steady beat, spends half his time tuning on stage, and the other half lamenting the fact that he wanted to be a trombone player—will somebody teach Leo Kottke to play guitar? Unfortunately, he is the best guitar player in the country, which limits his choice of qualified instructors. That’s the bad news.

Read more: LEO KOTTKE IN CONCERT - AS GOOD AS IT GETS

CAT STEVENS-YUSUF IN CONCERT

NO SEX, NO DRUGS, NO ROCK AND ROLL—GOT FOLK?

AT THE NOKIA THEATRE—LA LIVE - DECEMBER 14, 2014

By Ross Altman

Cat Stevens with D-28England’s greatest mathematician, pacifist and philanderer once said of Austria’s greatest logician and language philosopher: “Ludwig Wittgenstein came to Cambridge and taught the English to speak their own language.” Bertrand Russell, meet Cat Stevens. With his new album Tell ‘Em I’m Gone—from the Lead Belly chain gang song Take This Hammer—English folk singer Cat Stevens has come to the U.S. and taught Americans to sing our own folk songs—black, blues, and even the singing cowboy Gene Autry classic (written by former Louisiana Governor Jimmy Davis) You Are My Sunshine, a song relegated to nursing home sing along song sheets until Cat reshaped it into a modern blues and made it shine all over again—as he did with Lead Belly.

Read more: CAT STEVENS-YUSUF IN CONCERT

MERLE HAGGARD: CLOSE ENOUGH TO TOUCH A LEGEND

LIVE IN CONCERT AT THE CANYON CLUB IN AGOURA HILLS - DECEMBER 9, 2014

By Ross Altman

Merle HaggardAll Merle Haggard had to do was walk on stage last night at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills and the audience was in the palm of his weather-beaten hands. He squinted out into the footlights (subject of a song he recorded with the late George Jones, We’ll Kick the Footlights Out) and tipped his dark brown Fedora and the audience roared its approval in anticipation of a great concert. He hadn’t even picked up his guitar.

A great concert it was, but that doesn’t begin to describe it: From San Quentin to the Kennedy Center, where the 77-year-old country music legend was honored 4 years ago, the man his friends call simply Hag has come to embody the core American values his fans came to embrace: hard work, hard times, hard time and hard drinking—all surrounded by a soft heart and animated by a keen eye.

Read more: MERLE HAGGARD: CLOSE ENOUGH TO TOUCH A LEGEND

Dirk Hamilton: Reconsider Me

HOW WARREN ZEVON’S ROADKILL BECAME LA’S WHITE RODRIGUEZ

AT THE ALVA SHOWROOM IN SAN PEDRO - NOVEMBER 22, 2014

By Ross Altman, PhD

Dirk HamiltonNine months before the Oscar-winning movie Searching for Sugar Man was released in July of 2012 Los Angeles had its own white Rodriguez hiding in plain sight in San Pedro at the Alva Showroom, where he first performed in November of 2011. Rodriguez we now know was a hit in South Africa long before he was discovered and became a belated star in his own land—where he had recorded his first two records in 1970 and ‘71 in Detroit—and then fell off the radar screen of contemporary music.

Read more: DIRK HAMILTON: RECONSIDER ME

MICHAEL CHAPDELAINE’S GUITAR RIDES WITH HIM

CONCERT AT THE PASADENA CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2014

By Ross Altman

Michael ChapdelaineHow good was National Fingerstyle Guitar Champion Michael Chapdelaine’s performance of solo instrumentals last night at the Pasadena Conservatory of Music? It was jaw-dropping, head-scratching, finger-picking good—that’s how good it was. But that wasn’t the most amazing thing about it. The most amazing thing about it was that it happened at all.

Read more: MICHAEL CHAPDELAINE’S GUITAR RIDES WITH HIM

DILLON IN DODGE

DYLAN AT THE DOLBY: OCTOBER 24, 2014

By Ross Altman, PhD

Dylan 2Hollywood may have stopped making Westerns, but Bob Dylan hasn’t. Marshall Dillon rode into Dodge City last night and restored law and order. The good guys won without firing a shot—but by the end the bad guys were behind bars. Who were they? Political corruption and decadence (Early Roman Kings), hard times and working class poverty (Workingman Blues #2), natural disasters (High Water Everywhere (for Charley Patton)), existential despair (Tangled Up in Blue) and war and injustice (Blowing In the Wind).

Read more: DILLON IN DODGE

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOHN PRINE:

PRINE TIME AT THE GREEK - OCTOBER 5, 2014

By Ross Altman

John PrineJohn Prine beat cancer—twice—so it was especially meaningful to hear when halfway through his sold-out show at the Greek Theatre last Sunday night a fan screamed out “Happy Birthday, John!!!” He piped back, “Not quite yet, but thanks.” John Prine was born October 10, 1946, just two months less a day before me in fact—and judging from his two bouts with cancer—squamous cell cancer in 1998 that cost him a part of his neck, cheek bone and some high notes—and an unrelated lung cancer last year—that cost him some cancelled bookings—he must feel lucky to be celebrating his 68th birthday at all.

You’d never know it, however, from the powerful, high energy folk blues tunes he worked in between his signature laconic Midwest story songs of ordinary people caught between hope and history—the poetry of everyday life’s unsung heroes he has chronicled with more insight and empathy than any American songwriter of the past forty years.

Read more: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOHN PRINE

GORDON LIGHTFOOT AT THE SABAN THEATRE:

DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS - SEPTEMBER 27, 2014

By Ross Altman

Gordon LightfootI got taken by a creative con artist at Gordon Lightfoot’s concert last night at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills—taken for my extra ticket so graciously offered by theatre publicity manager Luanne Nast. In exchange for my FolkWorks Preview of the concert (Gordon Lightfoot: A True Night Upon the Road) she gave me a press pass + 1, which it turned out I didn’t need. When I got to the theatre, before going to the box office window I was approached by a down-at-the-heels slight-looking bearded man-on-the-street straight out of an O. Henry story who, of course, “had a certain charm about him.”

He smiled at me and started singing If You Could Read My Mind and asked me if I had an extra ticket. He looked like someone who couldn’t afford to pay for one, and I thought in an instant maybe here is an opportunity to do a random act of kindness, a mitzvah just in time for Rosh Hashanah. He read my mind perfectly—an easy mark—and I said, “Wait a minute, I just might.” After a recent disappointment with a promised press pass that did not materialize I never count my press passes until I hold them in my hand. When I got to the window there they were as promised—and an aisle seat at that just as I had requested so my guest would be able to take an unscheduled restroom break without disturbing the entire row: Orchestra, Row DD (fourth row from the stage) seats 113 and 114—$125 face value each (concealed by a big fat “O” (for O Henry?) where the price would have been).

Read more: GORDON LIGHTFOOT AT THE SABAN THEATRE

A THING OF BEAUTY

DON MCLEAN AND JUDY COLLINS IN CONCERT

AT THE FOX PERFORMING ARTS CENTER IN RIVERSIDE - JULY 25, 2014

By Ross Altman

Judy Collins - Don McLean

Legendary singer-songwriter Don McLean and living angel Judy Collins brought a show to Riverside last night that was one for the ages—and the times we live in. Judy Collins, looking resplendent in a simple black sequined pant suit highlighted by her shining silver hair flowing down her shoulders gave the most moving tribute to her “old friend Pete Seeger” of all the tributes I have heard since he passed away last January 27.

She offered her heartfelt narrative of her friendship with America’s Tuning Fork from the time she walked into Pete’s (and her soon-to-be) manager Harold Leventhal’s office fifty years ago only to find Pete stretched out fast asleep on the floor his banjo by his side and heard Leventhal say quietly but firmly, “Shh! Don’t wake him! He’s resting for three shows I am taking him to this afternoon; this is his only chance to get some sleep!” She then recounted the thrill of singing Turn, Turn, Turn with him on his self-produced folk TV show Rainbow Quest on a small public station (“before PBS was even invented!” she told us)—a performance which you can still enjoy on YouTube.

Read more: DON MCLEAN AND JUDY COLLINS IN CONCERT

RICHARD THOMPSON PLAYED REAL GOOD FOR FREE

AT THE LEVITT PAVILION IN MACARTHUR PARK - JULY 10, 2014

By Ross Altman

Richard Thompson

But the one man band

By the quick lunch stand

He was playing real good for free

~Joni Mitchell

If you wanted to see the best concert in town last night you were at the Levitt Pavilion in MacArthur Park where Richard Thompson held court for an hour and a half—alternating between his Fender Stratocaster—the instrument behind his last album Electric—and his Irish-made Lowden guitar—the instrument behind the collection he had on sale for the folkies in the audience like me—Acoustic Classics—gathered together from live performances. It was a tour de force of masterful guitar accompaniment highlighting his dark world of original songs—but for two encores, which we’ll get to in a moment—going all the way back to Fairport Convention in the 1960s and later when he and his wife Linda added folk rock to the British Invasion.

Read more: RICHARD THOMPSON PLAYED REAL GOOD FOR FREE

JOAN BAEZ & GINGER AT THE GREEK

WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD DOGS— JULY 3, 2014

By Ross Altman

Joan BaezI never thought I’d be reviewing a dog for FolkWorks, but Joan Baez’s Dog-God-Dock Boggs-and-Bob Tour just rolled into town and I knew you’d want to hear about it. Her dog Ginger stole the show without even playing guitar. The late great actor Jack Lemmon when asked if he had any advice for young actors boiled it down to this: “Never do a play with a dog—they’ll steal every scene they are in.” Whenever she’d get up and approach the front of the stage to get a better look at the limousine liberals in the first three rows Joan would quip, “Attention follows motion, not sound,” meaning if the audience would stop moving around, so would Ginger. She was also given a tall glass of water during the show, and Joan let us know that she “couldn’t sing until Ginger had finished her water.” As far as I know she wasn’t a seeing-eye dog, so why was she on stage at the—ahem, Greek Theatre? It seems that Joan Baez has been stricken with a sudden crisis of lack of self-confidence and thinks she needs a huge bag of tricks to hold the audience’s attention—I assume we can all look forward to a dog-and-pony show the next time she is in town. (Memo to Joan: you know Dylan has a dog too—judging from the back cover of Self Portrait—but he doesn’t put him on stage when he’s performing.) Anyway, Ginger did a great job of being just who she is—a dog—and all Joan would have to do to present a great concert is to be just who she is—a folk singer—in case she has forgotten.

Read more: JOAN BAEZ & GINGER AT THE GREEK

HOMAGE TO THEO

CONCERT CELEBRATING THEODORE BIKEL’S 90TH BIRTHDAY

AT THE SABAN THEATRE IN BEVERLY HILLS - JUNE 16, 2014

By Ross Altman

Theo BikelHow Jewish was this event? Even the Holocaust denier out in front was Jewish. He held up a sign warning about the “Holohoax” that the “Zionists” were trying to perpetrate. He needed a nose job and twenty years of psychotherapy to get over being a self-hating Jew. I know my people. And he did too. Where would he find more Jews to rile than at a 90th birthday party for Theo? His name was on the marquee, and there were lines around the block. I asked a fellow landsman if he had tickets. “No, this is for Will Call.” I did have tickets—from the box office two months ago. Just like Eric Darling, we walked right in.

Theodore Bikel, folk singer, actor, activist and newlywed turned 90 years old on May 2nd; a few of his friends—including Arlo Guthrie, Tom Paxton, Peter Yarrow and fellow thespian Ed Asner held a little soiree to celebrate the occasion last night at Beverly Hills “Temple of the Performing Arts,” the Saban Theatre. It was a Hootenanny in the grand old tradition, with fifteen performers—including the Limelighters’ Alex Hassilev who bore an eerie resemblance to a younger Theo—taking their turns at the microphone on center stage, and politicians, labor leaders and recording executives conveying their gratitude to the man who brought (in both senses) the Sound of Music to America. We could have had better seats. If I were a rich man.

Read more: HOMAGE TO THEO

ERIC ANDERSEN WITH VAN DYKE PARKS

AND THOU BESIDE ME AT MCCABE’S JUNE 7, 2014

By Ross Altman

Eric Andersen
Photo by Carol Rothman.

“McCabe’s is the Old Gray Mare of Santa Monica” said their dedicated concert curator Lincoln Meyerson as he introduced this evening’s show; “if there’s a fire just grab a favorite guitar off the wall and escape through the nearest exit.” And after letting us know that the last of the Brooklyn cowboys, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, would be there on Saturday, June 28, he brought Eric Andersen down from their fabled upstairs green room—who was escorted by Pasadena resident and American music legend Van Dyke Parks, who backed him up on a humongous accordion throughout the concert. It was a magical evening of musical mayhem and insider storytelling from the legendary Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse—ahem, Greenwich Village—with Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton.

Andersen was an integral part of the Greenwich Village folk scene that inspired a renaissance of idealistic songwriting from broadside balladeers Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Buffy St. Marie, Fred Neil, Len Chandler and Eric Andersen himself.

Read more: ERIC ANDERSEN WITH VAN DYKE PARKS

ONLY IN AMERICA: RODRIGUEZ AT THE GREEK

MAY 30, 2014

By Ross Altman

Rodriquez

I wonder

sings Rodriguez,

How many times you’ve had sex

And I wonder

If you know who’ll be next.

Then, at the end of this great song, he confides to the nearly sold-out Greek Theatre audience, “I wonder, but I don’t really want to know.” It brings down the house. Well, I wonder a few things too. For example, I wonder what Rodriguez is thinking when the opening act—a slender young woman with an enormous voice—promotes her soon-to-be-released first album after every song, going through the track list one by one.

Read more: ONLY IN AMERICA: RODRIGUEZ AT THE GREEK

STRAIGHT OUT OF COMPTON: KEB’ MO’

AN EVENING AT THE GRAMMY MUSEUM: MAY 14, 2014

By Ross Altman

Keb MoTall, dark and strikingly handsome, Keb’ Mo’ (born Kevin Roosevelt Moore, October 3, 1951) was born and raised in Los Angeles, a long way from the Mississippi Delta, but he has made the Delta Blues his own as if it was his birthright. If you thought that the best contemporary blues guitarists are old white guys who learned their trade from the likes of Reverend Gary Davis and Mississippi John Hurt—such as the recently reviewed John Hammond, David Bromberg, Stefan Grossman and Roy Book Binder—think again. Keb’ Mo’ is living proof that contemporary black performers have continued the tradition of their great black forebears with every bit as much dedication and bluesmanship as Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Big Bill Broonzy.

Read more: KEB’ MO’ AT GRAMMY MUSEUM

ERIC ANDERSEN AT THE HORNS, WATFORD ENGLAND

TUESDAY 15 APRIL

By Rosa Redoz

Eric Anderson current“It’s Tuesday evening in Watford, think about it.” said Eric Andersen, sounding as surprised as we were to be in a Victorian pub on a fine April evening, being serenaded by Albert Camus’ centenary composer.

Accompanied by the stunning Michele Gazich on violin, Andersen performed a wonderful 10 song set including his Bob Dylan recorded Thirsty Boots and the divine ballad Violets of Dawn.

Even the sound check, after a brief but rocking few songs from the great Ben Reel Band, silenced the Newcastle Brown Ale swilling clientele. There was a power and grace in Andersen’s delivery that promised us a special set. 

Opening with Dusty Boxcar Wall with Andersen on acoustic and the whooping syncopation of Gazich on violin he went on to the country rock and rhythm of Dance Of Love And Death. The vivacity of the lyrics were balanced by the elegant flights of fantasy of the violin runs.

His hit song, Violets of Dawn sounded like an old Irish love lament. To misquote Plato ‘we recognise rather than discover what we love’. Even songs that were new to me felt like I’d always known them. The imagery of this songpoet’s words are worthy of the pastoral musings of Keats or Clare.

Before the flashing cloaks of darkness gone

Come see the no colors fade blazing

Into petal sprays of violets of dawn

His voice is strong and tuneful and Michele Gazich’s fills were generous. They are a lovely team.

Read more: ERIC ANDERSEN AT THE HORNS

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.

From my seat, one row from the stage, I thought initially she was playing a bass. But her diminutive height and virtuoso playing combined to deceive. She makes one instrument into an entire band.

This Old Town was a sublime dustbowl ballad. It will now be required listening by my Steinbeck students!

This old town was built by hand

In the dust bowl of the motherland

There must be rock beneath this sand

Oh' I'll be damned, this town still stands.

Read more: Beauty’s Currency: Janis Ian and Tom Paxton

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: David Bromberg

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: Warmed by Rodriguez

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: SHEL

For Musicians Only:
Joan Baez's Set List

From the UCLA Live! Royce Hall Concert

February 19, 2009

By Ross Altman

1)      Lily of the West-Traditional; key* (see below)  of Gm, capo 3rd fret; play Em

2)      Scarlett Tide-new song from Day After Tomorrow by Elvis Costello and T-Bone Burnett;

3)      God Is God-from Day After Tomorrow by Steve Earle; key of Ab, capo 1st fret; play G;

4)      Silver Dagger-Traditional; key of E; capo 2nd fret; play D

5)      Love Song to a Stranger-by Joan Baez; key of Bb; capo 3rd fret; play G;

6)      Farewell Angelina-by Bob Dylan; key of C

7)      Gospel Ship-Carter Family; key of F#; capo 6th fret; play C;

8)      Christmas in Washington-by Steve Earle; key of G

9)      Catch the Wind-by Donovan; key of G

               (At this point in the concert I was tapped on the shoulder by a reporter sitting behind me who asked me to stop using my flashlight, so I was not able to write down most of the keys for the rest of her set, though I did get the titles);

10)  Rose of Sharon-new song from Day After Tomorrow by Eliza Gilkison

_____________________________________________________________

11)  (Solo Set) Long Black Veil-by Marijon Wilkins and Danny Dill

12)  Wanderer-from Day After Tomorrow by Steve Earle;

13)  Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word-by Bob Dylan;

14)  Jerusalem-by Steve Earle; key of G;

­­­­­­­­­­­­­______________________________________________________________

15)  (Band Returns) Honest Lullaby-by Joan Baez

16)  Sweet Sir Galahad-by Joan Baez

17)  Diamonds and Rust-by Joan Baez; key of Em

18)  Swing Low, Sweet Chariot-Traditional (sung A Capella)

      _____________________________________________________________

19)  Encores; Gracias a la Vida-by Violetta Para;

20)  The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down-by Robbie Robertson

*The key represents the key Joan sings in; the chords she plays are often different from the key, depending on which fret she capos the guitar, which I indicate separately-I only indicate the one chord which would determine the key were their no capo.  Her guitar arrangements are addressed in more detail on at least one web site.

By the way, these notations are for singers who accompany themselves on guitar; lead guitarist and the band's music director John Doyle never used a capo.

Ross Altman may be reached at Greygoosemusic@aol.com

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: Stefan Grossman: The Picking Fool from Kicking Mule

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: Dylan Smiled at Me

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: David Brewer and Rebecca Lomnicky

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: Don McLean: The Night the Music Lived

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: Concert Review Tom Paxton

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: STRING MADNESS LIVE AT WESTWOOD

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: JORDIE LANE at HOTEL CAFÉ

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: Bob Dylan August 3 2013 Concert Review

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: Sausage Grinder Concert

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 concert review

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: Maria Muldaur and the Campbell Brothers

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: Tom Rush: Dean of Cambridge Folk Scene

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: Discovering Jordie Lane

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: Waiting for Sugar Man - Rodriguez in Concert

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: Arlo Concert Review 2013

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: A Valentine for Janis Ian:

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: Willie Nelson’s America

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: Bonnie Raitt: Laughing the Blues Away

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: Rufus and Martha Are Coming to Town

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: Blind Yemen Blues Concert Review

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: Bob Dylan Concert Review

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: Staff Benda Bilili Concert

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: Judy Collins at Walt Disney Concert Hall

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: Steven Pinker - The Better Angels of Our Nature

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: Glen Campbell: True Grit

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: Dylan and a full moon

SHAKE, RATTLE AND FOLK:
JOAN BAEZ AT ROYCE HALL

By Ross Altman

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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: Joan Baez Concert

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: The Buffalo Springfield Resurrected

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: Heritage Festival Review

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: Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest Review

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: Arlo Guthrie’s Southern Journey

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: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

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: Dylan concert review

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: JOAN BAEZ

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: ROY BOOK BINDER

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: TONY McMANUS

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: Arlo Concert Review

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: Crowfoot Concert Review

BANSHEE IN THE KITCHEN

PETER STRAUSS RANCH

JUNE 14, 2009

BY KATHY BAWN AND ANYA STURM

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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: BANSHEE IN THE KITCHEN

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: Los Lobos Retro

Opa Cupa!

with guest vocalist, Eva Primack

Live at Boulevard Music

By Joel Okida 

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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: Opa Cupa

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: Beyond the Pale

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: Mark Fosson

KRIS KRISTOFFERSON
Brings Saturday Night Magic

to Sunday Afternoon

October 19 Haugh Performing Arts Center, Glendora

By Terry Roland

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"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: KRIS KRISTOFFERSON

Fur Dixon and Steve Werner at the Getty

September 19, 2008

By Carl Gage

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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: Fur and Steve

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: FOLKTACULAR

A Tale of Two Dylans:

CONCERT review:

DYLAN AT THE Santa Monica Civic Auditorium

- September 3, 2008

By Ross Altman

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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: Tale of Two Dylans

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.  

Read more: JOHN STEWART MEMORIAL

March-April, 2008

CARRIE NEWCOMER BRINGS EVERYDAY MAGIC TO MCCABE'S

by Terry Roland

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  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: CARRIE NEWCOMER BRINGS EVERYDAY MAGIC TO MCCABE'S

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: MCGUIRE AND TERRY TALBOT

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: LONG BEACH BAYOU FESTIVAL 2007

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: Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks

THE BRICK: A ONE MAN MUSICAL

By Art Podell

Bill Berry - The Brick"When will you give up this clang-clang?” Bill Berry launches into a conversation with his imaginary mother. It’s heated at first. “You are wasting your life with this clang-clang! Always the bang-bang with the clang-clang!" - he mimics her chastising of his guitar playing when he was a child.

Guitar in hand, seated on a chair or wandering the stage, staring and talking to imaginary people without ever crossing the ‘fourth wall’, Bill’s Berry’s one-man musical show The Brick: A One Man Musical, named after one of Bill’s songs, is playing at the Asylum @ Studio C, 6448 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, as part of The Hollywood Fringe Festival until June 20th.

Read more: THE BRICK: A ONE MAN MUSICAL

Dinesh D’Souza’s Dark Vision of “Hillary’s America”

What Did You Learn In School Today?

By Ross Altman, PhD

Dinesh DSouza Hillarys America

What did you learn in school today,

Dear little child of mine?

What did you learn in school today,

Dear little child of mine?

asked folksinger Tom Paxton.

I learned our government must be strong

It's always right and never wrong!

Our leaders are the finest men

And we elect them again and again,

And that's what I learned in school today,

That's what I learned in school.

Read more: DINESH D’SOUZA’S DARK VISION OF “HILLARY’S AMERICA”

THE MUSIC OF STRANGERS

YO YO MA AND THE SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE

By Yatrika Shah-Rais

The Music of Strangers“Every tradition is the result of successful invention… Human beings grow by being curious and receptive to what’s around them. A lot of people are scared of change, and sometimes there’s reason to be fearful. But if you can welcome change, you become fertile ground for development.”

This is just one of the many insightful quotes from the movie The Music of Strangers: Yo Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble.

Read more: THE MUSIC OF STRANGERS

David Broza: East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem

Film Screening, Q&A and Live Performance
at the Museum of Tolerance - April 12, 2016

Blessed are the peacemakers.

By Ross Altman, PhD

David Brazer - E. Jeruselum  W. JeruselumIt was hard to determine who David Broza’s most implacable enemy was at the screening of his 2014 film East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem last night at the Museum of Tolerance—Palestinians, or Israelis? I went back and forth, so here is a blow-by-blow account of one of the more gripping films and live performances I have encountered in my effort to cover the waterfront for FolkWorks over the past 15 years.

Read more: DAVID BROZA: EAST JERUSALEM/WEST JERUSALEM

Hank Williams: I Saw the Light

Starring Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams

Written and Directed by Marc Abraham

Release Date: March 25, 2016

A Picture from Life’s Other Side

By Luke the Drifter

Hank Williams - I Saw the LightWell, they did it to you again, Hank; they did it to you again. Hollywood got its clammy meat-hooks on your incandescent life story and snuffed it out without a second thought.

The Shakespeare of country music was the last to recognize his own genius. Your highest ambition was to play on the Grand Ol’ Opry, not to be taken as an artist on any terms whatsoever. Your mother Lillie Williams—portrayed as a jealous girlfriend by Cherry Jones—was the only one to recognize your innate gifts, saying in a key scene in this wrenching new portrait of the “founding father of country music” that while you “came from Alabama,” where you really “came from” is an utter mystery to her. She is not referring to your birthplace or hometown, but to your artistic genius—where that comes from.

Read more: HANK WILLIAMS: I SAW THE LIGHT

THE CHRISTIANS

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO WOODY

AT THE MARK TAPER FORUM - DECEMBER `13, 2015

By Ross Altman, PhD

The ChristiansOn the 8th night of Hanukkah what would a Jewish folksinger be doing? Lighting a menorah? No. Enjoying a latke? No. Spinning a dreidel? No. I found myself singing John Lennon’s Imagine as Jill Fenimore and I walked out of the Mark Taper Forum last night. We saw a new play called The Christians, by playwright Lucas Hnath, directed by Les Waters. 

Read more: THE CHRISTIANS - THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO WOODY

ALWAYS…PATSY CLINE

PLAYING AT THE SIERRA MADRE PLAYHOUSE

By Nick Smith

Always Patsy ClineAlthough her musical career was already in progress, Patsy Cline didn’t make a splash on the national stage until her appearances on the Arthur Godfrey show in 1957. Before that, her music was only available in places where the audience was deliberately seeking out country-western music. Before that, she dressed in cowgirl outfits hand-made by her mother. Arthur Godfrey’s show brought her, dressed in elegant, sophisticated dresses, into homes across America, as a show heavily viewed by housewives who didn’t listen to country-western, heard her amazing voice on repeated appearances.

Read more: ALWAYS…PATSY CLINE

WHERE DID BOB DYLAN GET THAT HUCK FINN CAP?

PREVIEW OF HAL HOLBROOK IN MARK TWAIN TONIGHT!

AT THE FOX PERFORMING ARTS CENTER IN RIVERSIDE - JANUARY 17, 2015

By Ross Altman, PhD

Dylan with Huck Finn capShould auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne? Not on my watch, Robert Burns; so here’s a cup o’ kindness, for one of my old literary friends.

America’s first literary rebel was not Woody Guthrie, or Jack Kerouac, or Bob Dylan, it was a young boy who sprang out of the imagination of our first world author—the one who inspired Ernest Hemingway to say that all of American Literature begins with Huckleberry Finn, a children’s book by Mark Twain. 

Read more: WHERE DID BOB DYLAN GET THAT HUCK FINN CAP?

Shining in Selma: Odetta, Dylan and Len Chandler

Preview Screening, Discussion and a Knockdown Drag-out Argument

At The Museum of Tolerance - December 20, 2014

By Ross Altman, PhD

Selma

Odetta, Oprah and Oyelowo—there are some big “O’s” in Selma, the movie, and judging from the audience response I heard last night at its premiere local screening another big “O” may be in its future; that would be the Oscar. The film’s producer Oprah Winfrey will certainly be nominated for her resounding portrayal of a middle-aged black woman in Selma trying simply to vote, only to face the County Registrar’s post-graduate series of questions she must answer to enter the voting booth. After reciting so movingly word-for-word the Preamble to the Constitution she is asked how many county judges there are in the state of Alabama.

Read more: SHINING IN SELMA: ODETTA, DYLAN AND LEN CHANDLER

DINESH D’SOUZA’S AMERICA:

HIS LAND AIN’T MY LAND

By Ross Altman

Dinesh DSouzas AmericaDinesh D’Souza’s America opens in medias res, in the midst of the American Revolution, and before we have had time to settle in, we see General George Washington riding by as he is…shot dead by a British sniper’s bullet. What if, D’Souza’s movie speculates, George Washington had died that way and America had never been born. What would the world look like today?—a fascinating hypothesis--but apparently not enough to hang a movie on.

As John Milton found out while writing Paradise Lost every epic needs a villain as well as a hero, and often the villain—in Milton’s case Satan—is the more interesting character than—in his case the Lord. In Dinesh D’Souza’s pseudo-documentary America: Imagine a World Without Her, a hypothetical retelling of the American story the hero—it goes without saying—is America—while the villain is the late great Boston University historian and author of The People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn.

Read more: DINESH D’SOUZA’S AMERICA

Hard Travelin’ with Woody

Written and Performed by Randy Noojin

The Theatre Asylum’s Elephant Studio

At The Hollywood Fringe Festival - June 23, 2014

By Ross Altman

hard-travelin-275Woody Guthrie is still out there, like the Force, unencumbered and unfettered by normal social constraints or personal obligations that most of us take for granted. Just him and his guitar and harmonica - ramblin’ around from town to town, lending his voice to the cause of the working people. He reminds us that “working people” includes hoboes like himself—one of the original Dust Bowlers from Okemah, Oklahoma, who got put out on the road by Ma Nature and the Bankers in 1935, and never came home. Woody tells their story and sings the real-life ballads and songs he made up so their story wouldn’t be forgotten.

I’ve heard others do this kind of one-man theatre before, starting with Tom Taylor at the Theatricum Botanicum in the 1980s, and more recently Will Kaufman, British author of Woody Guthrie: American Radical (University of Illinois Press, 2011) during the Centennial of Woody’s birth (on July 14, 1912) a couple of years ago.

Read more: Hard Travelin' with Woody

SEND IN THE CLOWNS:
THE GERSHWINS’ PORGY AND BESS

AT THE AHMANSON THEATRE: APRIL 23RD, 2014

By Ross Altman

Gershwin Porgy and Bess small“Is that it?” were the first words out of Jill’s mouth as the last notes died away from The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess at the Ahmanson Theatre. In other words, “Is that how it ends?” In still other words, “where’s the Broadway Musical?” You know, the one that ends the way a love story is supposed to end—with Porgy and Bess in each other’s arms—or dying in each other’s arms, just the way they look on the Marquee picture that’s advertising the show. It’s beautiful, in living color, just the way you want to remember them. But there is something wrong with this picture: what they’re advertising is not what they deliver. Jill could almost have asked, “Where’s the beef?”

What they deliver is something more profound: a Shakespearian tragedy, a Greek tragedy, or Dreiser’s An American Tragedy—but not what Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter or George M. Cohan would call “a Broadway Musical.” That’s why George Gershwin called it “a folk opera.” In opera you expect to see dead bodies on the stage, as you do here—the defining moments of both Act I and Act II.

Read more: THE GERSHWINS’ PORGY AND BESS

HIGH HOPES: THE MEDICAL MARIJUANA TELETHON

WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY VIRGINIA DEMOSS

AT THE FOUND THEATRE IN LONG BEACH

MOTHER’S DAY, MAY 11, 2014

By Ross Altman

High HopesIt was a solemn occasion, Mother’s Day, taking the whole family out to a Champagne brunch at Rancho Los Cerritos Historic Site in the morning, where you could enjoy Randy Newman’s “another perfect day” in sunny Long Beach, to the Latin beat of the James Cheeseman Jazz Trio and Grand Marnier French Toast and Bourbon-soaked ham (well, some of us could; a 12-stepper like myself enjoyed the vegetarian frittata and fruit salad, orange juice and coffee), catered by Sofia and hosted by Rancho Los Cerritos own Ellen Calomiris.

But the solemnity quickly ended as soon as we got to the Found Theatre further down Long Beach Boulevard, where we caught the Mother’s Day Matinee of their latest twist on reality—The Medical Marijuana Telethon.

Read more: HIGH HOPES: THE MEDICAL MARIJUANA TELETHON

The Resurrection of Paul Robeson:

“Paul Robeson” At The
Nate Holden Performing Arts Center

Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014

By Ross Altman

Keith David - Paul RobesonFor an artist of Paul Robeson’s stature—except that there is no artist of Paul Robeson’s stature—to have become a stranger in his own land is one of the more improbable stories of a so-called free society. At one time the most famous performer in America—star of stage (Othello), screen (Show Boat), radio (Ballad for Americans), author (Here I Stand) and recording artist (for Columbia and Vanguard Records), Robeson strode across the American landscape like a colossus. No one would have been surprised to learn that he was a Phi Beta Kappa scholar at Rutgers, a two-time All-American football player and the toast of British Aristocracy after making his debut singing Ol’ Man River in Show Boat in London’s West End in 1927. He was declared “the Voice of the Century” long before the 20th Century was over—sharing that title with Marian Anderson.

Read more: THE RESURRECTION OF PAUL ROBESON

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: ALL ALONE WITH PAUL ROBESON

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: PASSION PLAY 2014

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: THE BOOK OF ALTMAN: A REVIEW OF THE BOOK OF MORMON

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: INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

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: MARILYN…MADNESS & ME

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: WILLIAM PILGRIM AND THE ALL GROWS UP

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: GREENWICH VILLAGE: THE MUSIC THAT DEFINED A GENERATION

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: AIN’T IN IT FOR MY HEALTH: LEVON HELM

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: RADIO UNNAMEABLE FILM REVIEW

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: SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN

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: PHIL OCHS: THERE BUT FOR FORTUNE

The Bad Arm:
Confessions of a Dodgy Irish Dancer

Written and performed by Maire Clerkin

Directed by Dan OʼConnor

By Brooke Alberts

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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: THE BAD ARM: CONFESSIONS OF A DODGY IRISH DANCER

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: THAT'S THE TICKET, ROADHOG:

  November-December 2007

SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR:

A REVIEW OF I’M NOT THERE

By Ross Altman

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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: I'M NOT THERE : SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR

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: PETE SEEGER MOVIE

TITLE: GROWN-UP ANGER: 

THE CONNECTED MYSTERIES OF BOB DYLAN, WOODY GUTHRIE, AND THE CALUMET MASSACRE OF 1913

AUTHOR: DANIEL WOLFF

PUBLISHER: HARPER-COLLINS

PUBLICATION DATE: JUNE 13, 2017

I’LL TAKE YOU TO A PLACE CALLED ITALIAN HALL

By Darryl Holter

Originally published by L.A. Review of Books; reprinted with permission of the author.

Grown Up Angry Daniel WolffA LABOR STRIKE and a heart-wrenching tragedy in 1913, Woody Guthrie at a hootenanny in a New York basement in 1945, and Bob Dylan in a recording studio in 1962 — these three seemingly unrelated events provide the framework for Daniel Wolff’s study of industrial violence in the United States, the folk music revival, and the evolution of rock ’n’ roll. Wolff’s narrative is an angry polemic and social commentary. The “mysteries” he explores reveal how economic depression, foreign wars, and racial discrimination shaped the music of two restless and fiery artists. Along the way, he delves into the world of copper mining, revising the official version of the 1913 tragedy in order to set the record straight.

Read more: GROWN-UP ANGER - DANIEL WOLFF

TITLE: PEGGY SEEGER: A LIFE OF MUSIC, LOVE AND POLITICS

AUTHOR: JEAN R. FREEDMAN

PUBLISHER: UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS PRESS

PUBLICATION DATE: MARCH 2017

PRETTY PEGGY-O

By Ross Altman, PhD

PEGGY SEEGER A Life of Music Love and PoliticsThe same man who wrote The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face wrote The Ballad of Ho Chi Minh and the same woman who loved this man cheated on him with a woman; if you’re looking for revelations from this new biography—Peggy Seeger: A Life of Music, Love and Politics—that’s a good place to start. There are enough of them to qualify this as a folk thriller, with Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger as its unlikely heroes. As I write this, on May 19, I was looking for a song to sing later this evening at a cultural event celebrating Ho’s birthday—I put Ballad of Ho Chi Minh in the search engine, and who should come up but Peggy’s husband and co-founder of the British Folk Revival. It brought a smile to my face to recall the days when Ewan could shock the comparatively tame protest singers in the US—right up to and including Ewan’s brother-in-law Pete Seeger, who would never have written a song in praise of “Uncle Ho,” even though he wrote his share of antiwar protest songs. Protesting against the war is one thing—praising the enemy and its folk hero leader is quite another. Ewan MacColl went where no American singers dared to tread. Peggy was his soul-mate, and every bit his equal.

Read more: PEGGY SEEGER: A LIFE OF MUSIC, LOVE AND POLITICS

TITLE: 26 SONGS in 30 DAYS

WOODY GUTHRIE'S Columbia River Songs

and the Planned Promised Land in the Pacific Northwest

AUTHORS: GREG VANDY WITH DANIEL PERSON

PUBLICATION DATE: APRIL 12, 2016

By Lenny Potash

26 Songs in 30 DaysThere are no shortage of writings about and by Woody Guthrie but 26 Songs in 30 Days is a great contribution because it is a work focused on the relationship between the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and Woody and what this massive public works project meant to him as the country was coming out of the Great Depression and preparing for World War II.

Read more: 26 SONGS in 30 DAYS - WOODY GUTHRIE'S COLUMBIA RIVER SONGS

TITLE: WOODY GUTHRIE L.A.—1937-1941

AUTHORS: DARRYL HOLTER AND WILLIAM DEVERELL
FOREWORD BY ED CRAY

PUBLISHER: ANGEL CITY PRESS (SANTA MONICA, CA)

PUBLICATION DATE: January 15, 2016

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

By Ross Altman, PhD

WOODY GUTHRIE L.A.1937-1941This account of Woody Guthrie’s pivotal four years in Los Angeles from 1937 to 1941—during which he became the political songwriter who influenced four generations of American folk singers—from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen—will send a seismic shockwave through the standard narrative of the folk revival of the1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s. Measured on the Richter Scale, I would put it at a 6.7—in the same territory as the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Read more: WOODY GUTHRIE L.A.—1937-1941

THE RHYMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’

TITLE: THE LYRICS: SINCE 1962

AUTHOR: BOB DYLAN

EDITOR: CHRISTOPHER RICKS, LISA NEMROW, JULIE NEMROW

PUBLISHER: SIMON AND SCHUSTER

RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 28, 2014 (NYC)

By Ross Altman, PhD

They LyricsThe most complete collection of Bob Dylan’s lyrics we are likely to see in our lifetime has just been published, and the most notable thing about it is the juxtaposition of Dylan’s lyrical changes in many songs from their original recorded versions to the printed versions to the various live recorded versions, yielding in some cases three rather different texts. Each section is framed by a full-size replica of the original album cover, in full color front and back. The dimensions of the LP determined the size of the book.

As my rabbi pointed out after seeing Dylan’s third concert at the Dolby Theatre (I reviewed the first in these pages) Bob seemed to have altered the lyrics my rabbi knew in both Tangled Up in Blue and Simple Twist of Fate. What gives? He wondered; we are accustomed to hearing different tempos, arrangements, instrumentation, even melodies for many of Dylan’s classic songs in live performance; now must we also get used to different lyrics? At what point do we find it difficult to think we heard the same song?

So I decided to order the $200, 961 page, 13 pound book and find out for myself. It just arrived from Barnes & Noble in NYC and what can I say? Rabbi, Things Have Changed.

Read more: THE RHYMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’

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: REVIVAL - A FOLK MUSIC NOVEL

TITLE: THE BACH UKE BOOK

AUTHOR: ROB MACKILLOP

PUBLISHER: MEL BAY

RELEASE DATE: 2012

By Jacqui Grennan

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The 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: BACH UKE BOOK

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: GYPSY VOICES: MUSIC OF PASSION, RESILIENCE & JOY

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: 50 GEMS OF IRISH MUSIC FOR TIN WHISTLE

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: THE CARTER FAMILY: DON’T FORGET THIS SONG

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: ITALIAN FOLK MUSIC FOR MANDOLIN

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: THE BALLAD OF TOM DOOLEY - SHARYN MCCRUMB

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: Don Morrison - THIS COULD BE BIG

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: ODETTA, THE QUEEN OF FOLK

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: Letters