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There's a freewheeling spontaneity, a genuine emotional and political response to contemporary events here the Presidential election week , that marks this live set compiled from two nights at the Bowery Ballroom, NYC.
Generally speaking, Joan's on good form, and these performances won't disappoint her many fans, although not every one of the 14 selections comprises an essential performance that must be added to the existing Baez collection - a few are quite efficient but do not really add anything new to her interpretations. But Bowery Songs carries on, with credibility, Joan's deliberate policy - nay, tradition - of releasing good-quality, and representative, live recordings, and as such cannot be but welcomed.
Joan Baez - Dark Chords On A Big Guitar Sanctuary Her first album in six years finds the legendary folkie in excellent form, her keening voice as resonant and distinctive as ever, and while she may not have penned any of the material herself her choice of songs and writers is impeccable. With the vague exception of Natalie Merchant the dark and potent America the lost number Motherland , all the songs are by Americana artists, Greg Brown providing both the opening track with Sleeper a tale of putting wild flings behind in favour of a steady life, transformed into a classic Baez number evocative of her work in the 70s and lost dreams lament Rexroth's Daughter, from which the title line comes.
Still sounding like If I Needed You, Ryan Adams's In My Time Of Need gets a simple yearning treatment while his former Whiskeytown cohort Caitlin Cary supplies Rosemary Moore, its encouragement to the widow to go out and grab another slice of life given a bluesy repetitive drone guitar mood by Duke McVinnie with George Javori's brushed drums accentuating the late night torchy mood.
A chugging train rhythm blues gospel approach to attempted rape murder ballad Caleb Meyer is the first of two songs by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, the second an equally scratchy, shrugging swampy as opposed to country blues and twangy bass treatment of Elvis Presley Blues.
Which leaves Joe Henry's King's Highway an upbeat rocker reminiscent of Dylan's funkier periods , the spare acoustic cover of highly praised upcoming young Idaho singer-songwriter Josh Ritter's melancholic ballad Wings from his new album Starling and to close, reminding that Baez made her name getting the establishment hot under the collar, a gentle resigned and weary cover of Steve Earle's timely rueful political lament Christmas In Washington.
It's typical of Baez to choose to showcase so many of her talented - and in too many cases unsung - fellow artists while hitting the mood of the moment, and with this accomplished, often musically adventurous return to the recording scene, they, she, and most of all us, should be well satisfied beneficiaries. Vanguard have done a really good job with these enhanced reissues of Joan's earliest records, all six being generously topped up with interesting bonus material either recorded concurrently or closely thereon.
Just as the traditional song repertoire has itself provided Joan with much of her source material for these records - especially on volumes 1 and 2 - so these albums themselves have formed the basic source material for generations of singers coming new to the folk scene.
For many folkies, hers are pretty much the definitive versions of many of the songs she tackles here. Finally, the pair of In Concert CDs were taken from recordings made at various live shows between October and Spring by Maynard Solomon, then co-owner of the record label, for the dual purpose of documenting material and testing its suitability for future studio releases.
These albums contain some very fine performances, which form a useful addendum to the studio albums while duplicating less material than you might expect. Altogether, a very worthwhile set of reissues, which look set to become the definitive packages, hopefully remaining in print for some time to come.
I'd been meaning to investigate the band since hearing of their deliciously punningly titled debut Abbey Rodent! But taken on its own terms, it's a disc with lots to offer, and on this evidence Bag Of Rats is a band seriously worth getting to know. Formed back in , BoR released the abovementioned debut CD in , then proceeded to enthral festival crowds from Glastonbury to Priddy for four summer seasons before re-launching the verminous ship with this proud new album in April, in good time for this year's round of bookings.
The sound they make is a brilliantly full-toned plugged-in-acoustic racket I use that word as a definite compliment! A truly joyous racket then, typified by the opening ragbag or should that be ratbag?!
The album's tour-de-force and for me, its most persuasive highpoint is The Rooky Wood, a workout-cum-mini-extravaganza that entwines itself out of a stormalongly-different version of Richard Thompson's Poor Ditching Boy. Mike's own compositions mostly songs, along with a couple of instrumentals comprise around half of the disc's items, and some of these, while employing a more powered-down musical arrangement of the "thoughtful contemporary acoustic" variety and providing a contrast with the band's rowdier escapades, somehow don't quite fit with the image or make the same kind of lasting impression on the senses.
Those which do best stick in the mind, perhaps, are the title track and In Your Dreams, which inhabit a kinda ethereal, enigmatically referential psych-folk milieu that's complemented by their tumbling, swooning instrumental backdrop, while elsewhere Zombie Song is well described by a phrase in the band's press handout: Hell, they almost live up to the ultra-purple prose of their press handout!
Baggyrinkle is the name given to the octet of Swansea-based shantymen led by Dave Robinson, who for the past few years have hosted the Swansea and Mumbles Festivals while gaining an increasing reputation at major shanty and maritime festivals throughout the UK and Europe. Their individual approach combines sufficiently lusty lead and chorus parts, with three-part harmony singing a particular speciality. As for those shanty enthusiasts who consider harmonies anathema to the spirit of those work-songs, I'd urge them to listen again without prejudice, for they may well be pleasantly surprised at the musicality of Baggyrinkle's renderings.
This CD, a studio recording, complements the group's earlier tape release A Pound And A Pint , which was recorded live , in capturing both the vitality and textural strengths of the crew's singing, although it must be said that you can't always feel the actual weight of eight voices even when they're all used together. The chosen leads are well varied and characterful in delivery, although one or two of the selections may possibly seem a little matter-of-fact when set alongside more celebrated recordings; however, taken on their own terms, virtually all of the selections are creditable versions worthy of a place in the collection of the maritime enthusiast.
And another plus - unlike some shanty crews Baggyrinkle don't need to force the pace to make an impact. That factor alone should enable their work to be appreciated by any lovers of folk music who are sitting on the proverbial quayside and considering dipping their ears into the maritime repertoire.
Yes, this attractive and well-planned programme does Baggyrinkle credit. And by that same quirk of fate, here I am reviewing Ian's own followup CD at the same time as one by yet another different Bailey - Glyn! But back to Ian: Again, the majority of Ian's songs are built up from a solid and interestingly scored acoustic base, and he displays a keen intelligence in arrangement.
Stylistically, it might seem at first that Ian doesn't seem to quite make up his mind whether to aim for being a rocker or a balladeer, although he convinces on both counts - and more consistently so than on his debut. First off, he tries to remain One Step Ahead Of The Blues with a convincingly tough and catchy Lindisfarne-ish strum-and-slide-led opener, then shows his soulful passion on the sax-bedecked slowie You Stop Me From Falling. The deceptively gentle-sounding Communication has a distinctly Dylanesque demeanour - an impression reinforced no doubt by the melodic structure of the first half of each verse bearing such a marked resemblance to The Times They Are A'Changin'.
The tender and winsome chamber-folk-pop of Don't Throw It All Away, Listen Closely and Love Song replete with luscious yet understated string settings and the mournful Late Night Lament together comprise another attractive facet to Ian's musical personality, and these moments contrast big-time with the pounding, angry rock gestures of The Big Lie, the strident, organ-led Satellite and the slightly pompous Walk Away whose setting inescapably reminds me of Magazine's Permafrost.
It's good, too that Ian's taken the hint from last time and included his perceptive lyrics of love and loss in the booklet this is an attractive presentation, whose only, miniscule, fault is an incorrect juxtaposition in the tracklisting on the credits page. Ian's certainly a very gifted fellow, and this new album should bring him further into the limelight of recognition.
And it's a bit of a grower too, which is always a good thing.. David Kidman February By a strange and perplexing coincidence, two completely different CDs bearing just "Bailey" as the artist name have arrived in my review pile within a few weeks of each other. Even more coincidental is the fact that both cite both Nick Drake and Ray Davies among their respective influences! Bare facts aside, though, it inhabits an altogether lusher musical world than the other Bailey CD mentioned, at least for parts of its minute length.
Ian Bailey seems determined to prove himself as a musical chameleon, but ends up ultimately, I feel, as more of a jack-of-all-trades and closer to being a true or complete master of none. The musicianship is of a high standard though, and there are certainly plenty of moments to treasure here, although you have to pick around a bit to find them. The opening track Reach Out For Today is a luscious ballad, featuring some truly beautiful string playing from Richard Curran, but it's almost completely spoilt by some obtrusive and quite sickly keyboard-generated twittering noises; an overdose of synthy spacey sounds detracts from These Are Days too.
However, track 4 Unsteady Beat proves that with a bit more restraint in the musical arrangement Ian can put across a ballad with real sensitivity and taste.
Ditto with Autumn Leaves , where the Ray Davies namecheck came readily to mind at least in the vocal tone and phrasing. Ian handles the thoughtful, stripped-down Clive Gregson-style acoustic ballad Behind Disguise and the standout folk-rock troubadour ballad Aching And Waiting with considerable credit too. Elsewhere there are some well, what I might term vaguely sub-Coldplay moments, but they don't offend the sensibilities at all.
There's much to admire in Ian Bailey's work, and it really does repay investigation, but in my opinion he should ditch the synths and stop trying to prove too much. Oh, and it would've been nice to have the lyrics in the booklet.
This particular Bailey brings forth an album that's only just over half the length of the CD by the other Bailey I reviewed this week.
Sounds a bit dull from that tag, perhaps, but much of his work is actually rather attractive in a post-Nick-Drake kind of way School and Song Of The Lighthouse Keeper probably stick in the memory most on initial acquaintance. The downside is that his quietly rippling guitar style gets a trifle monotonous after three or four tracks, and when it's almost the only instrumental accompaniment used on the CD you need a proportionally higher level of interest in the lyrics to compensate and keep the listener's attention.
The problem here is that David tends to fall back on a kind of singsong metre and a rhyme scheme that's obvious to the point of seeming more trite than they actually are Hospital Bed and the Smiths-like Could Have Been A Sign being particular cases in point. As the title track postulates, this may be self-evidently "the way that things are done", but there's insufficient dynamic or colour contrast between the individual songs for the most part, despite occasional judicious tinkering with piano, melodica, mellotron and glockenspiel.
Very strange, especially coming from the Fylde Lancashire - one might well say! But this is a record that grabs attention right from the start, with its surfeit of invention, ideas and imagination. Glyn's music is difficult to get a handle on at first, with so many first-impressions forming a bewildering headlong rush through the ears.
The kinda spaghetti-western-smalltown image that might readily be conjured up by the album's title is one that translates into the slightly cheesy musical idiom Glyn adopts on Yahoo! And, in keeping with those tales of the old West too I suppose, Glyn's writing displays a strong sense of narrative too, as proved by the eight-minute epic Ballad Of Deano.
Basically, Glyn can't resist drawing attention to himself by means of undeniably impressive, powerfully crafted musical settings and lyrics that passionately and eloquently embrace entirely justified criticism of the unforgivingly corrupt corporate world in which we try to survive.
Also, you can't ignore Glyn's acute and well-developed feel for bright and bold instrumental colour and creative texturing: If you take things at sound-face value, there's quite a feelgood aura to the album generally, notably on the bouncy sunshine-pop of Down Amongst The Living and the iron-clad stompsome beat of School Reunion, and even on the more sinister numbers like The Doomed Ship Allegory and The Clown a very Bowie-esque portrait of a paedophile.
Payback-time comes quite literally on Groomed, an examination of coercion and abuse, which comes on like a breathless cross between The Cure's Love Cats and the Hustle theme tune. A first hearing of tracks like Kafkaesque World can be distinctly overwhelming, with its potent juxtapositions lavish musical setting with smooth crooning delivery to voice the thoughts and words of a torturer.
Elsewhere, perhaps, it can be all too easy to get the feeling that Glyn is deliberately setting out to make an Impact capital "I"! Yet, just as with any situation where there's a definite brimming-over-surfeit of artistic creativity, this eventually involves an element of excess that needs trimming - or at least channelling: In addition, and in spite of the strong sense of integrity that permeates Glyn's lyrical and musical vision, I can't altogether escape a feeling that pastiche is lurking not too far away at times; and this can leave an often desperately unsettling taste.
But then again, as with much music that unsettles, to whatever degree, it's perversely compelling, and against initial expectations I've found myself both returning to a good deal of this disc and keen to explore Glyn's two previous albums.. Roy's always had a penchant for education, in the truest sense of the word. Education should be fun, and a child's natural enjoyment of, and willing participation in music, can be both a vital element and a useful tool.
And not just to prove the point, Roy has always included a short sequence of children's songs in his live sets, which have appealed every bit as much to the adults in his audience! The first children's album Roy made was Oats And Beans And Kangaroos, back in the mids, and as recently as nine years ago, the birth of his eldest granddaughter Jessica provided the impetus for the lovely Up The Wooden Hill collection.
Now Roy has produced his final oh yes!! And of course it's a totally engaging disc, attractively packaged and entirely unpatronising for a children's record doesn't have to be full of obvious childlike songs! The key lies naturally in the CD's title - Tomorrow - which is shorthand for that all-important message for his own, and indeed all, grandchildren: The final two songs - Together Tomorrow and Tomorrow Lies In The Cradle the latter penned by Fred Hellerman of the Weavers group are not only practically unknown but turn out to be particularly moving, for they point this message into our consciousness ever so delightfully and leave us thinking.
Closer to home, Molly's Garden is a thoroughly charming ditty penned by Kit Roy's daughter and Molly's mum , while The Collier Brig a favourite song of Molly's even gets an unexpected airing.
And when the kids have been captivated and are almost ready for bed, Roy tucks them up with the poetic story of My Pet Dragon by John Maguire , which is gently enhanced by atmospheric sea sounds created by that good Mr Kirkpatrick's accordion bellows! In addition to the welcomely omnipresent JK, the album's signature musical backing is provided largely by Martin Simpson, Chris Coe and Andy Seward, with contributions from Andy Cutting and David Bailey and occasional chorus vocals from the assembled Bailey clan.
Well, Roy's "retirement" CD, Coda, was actually meant to be his last recording wasn't it?! So I guess a further release was inevitable!
And let me say at the outset that it finds Roy on finest possible form: Roy's renewed vigour is the stuff of legend, but I could say it's right there in the grooves of this record for you to reach out and touch Andy Seward has done a splendid job in capturing both the joy and strength of Roy's singing.
And of course in his choice of songs: Pride of place this time round goes to the four stunning songs from the pen of Seattle-based Jim Page, whose effective and resonant utilisation-cum-paraphrasing of borrowings from traditional and contemporary folk songs clearly strikes a chord in Roy while also recalling the comparable skill of our own Ray Hearne.
But Roy keenly embraces the sentiments of each and every song he sings, whether it's George Papavgeris's all-encompassing and life-affirming anthem Friends Like These or Ian Campbell's epic and darkly prophetic Old Man's Tale. Here Roy also brings us a contrasted pair of fine songs by David Ferrard: Continuing Roy's own personal tradition, there's a song apiece by Si Kahn and Leon Rosselson well, the latter's Leon's setting of Charles Causley's Timothy Winters , while "actual" tradition is represented by a lovely version of The Road To Dundee and a fine rendition of Handsome Molly, on which one of Roy's backing musicians is Martin Simpson, whose own recording of the song is considered a benchmark.
Roy's other instrumental collaborators here - John Kirkpatrick, Andy Cutting, Donald Grant and Andy Seward - give of their very best, playing with spirit and commitment throughout in lovingly-contoured, full-toned yet light and sensitive arrangements. Every track is both memorable and relevant, a further demonstration of Roy's total integrity, and the whole set forms both a cause for celebration of half-a-century of bringing folk music to a wide audience and yet another high point in Roy's illustrious career.
David Kidman May These are affectionate, genial, commendably polished and admirably conservative though not especially sedate renditions which make a virtue out of their intrinsic Irish character and its lovable honesty. Hereby refreshingly stripped of the customary layers of ages of grimy pub, club and showband sentimentality, these renditions of the songs that represent the Irish psyche together form a classy, and in the end likeable enough, tourist's-ear-view of popular Irish song, I'd say.
Some of us have been waiting eagerly for this landmark documentary film to be made available for home consumption! This film was a natural follow-on from the Channel 4 series Down Home, and later paved the way for key collaborations in the Transatlantic Sessions series. This celebration of cajun music and culture includes plenty of footage of musicians in their home environment, often in the same room as groups of dancers, and a tremendous feel of intense enjoyment permeates every second.
Other, arguably lesser-known artists appearing include charismatic fiddler Harry LaFleur, vibrant singer D. Menard with his Louisiana Aces and champion of progressive cajun, Wayne Toups; and Aly can be seen adding his trois sous to the musical gumbo by joining in enthusiastically at every session opportunity! This minute film is over way too soon, and fair exudes joie de vivre par excellence! As does the accompanying CD, which contains 16 full-length music tracks from the film's featured artists 9 of the cuts also involve Bain himself.
These are presented in the same order as they occur on the documentary, although the audio CD omits two additional song performances the rockin' Zydecajun Train by Wayne Toups and Raywood by Queen Ida respectively which are exclusive to the DVD and otherwise would've conveniently slotted in after track 11 and before track 15 total playing-time of the CD would easily have permitted their inclusion. A natural title for these master musicians' sixth joint album for the label, the release celebrates 25 years of touring together.
Inevitably it's a further sparkling illustration of everything they do best, and as such not an easy album to review without indulging in the well-worn superlatives. Equally inevitably though, any fan of these guys' fabulous musicianship will need a copy of this self-recommending record.
It's probably invidious to single out individual tracks for special praise, since the duo are proven masters of so many different forms and styles of traditional music, and it's probably fair to say that I enjoyed specific tracks in specific moods. But, if pushed, I'd recommend first the stirring opening set of Irish slides that lights my candle every time, not least due to the extra buzz generated by McGoldrick's uilleann pipes.
The fiddle-led set of wedding reels track 8 packs a hefty drive yet with a lightness of touch, while there's an irresistible authentic ceilidh-band feel to the bouncy pipe-marches of the final track that won't fail to get your feet tapping. Of the slower-paced tracks that are sensibly interspersed amongst the uptempo selections, the Rev. William Macleod's fine air Sitting In The Stern Of A Boat is the highlight for me, although the sequence also includes three gorgeous waltzes that prove perfect showcases for the musicians' inborn expressive elan.
Two abundantly fine musicians still at the top of their game after a quarter of a century - and showing no signs of decline whatsoever. Now in his 40th year as a professional musician, Aly's one of those folks who's always been right there in the forefront of Scottish traditional music: So in many respects, the time is now ripe for a suitably comprehensive overview of Aly's career to date.
And barring a Free Reed box-set, a goodly series of "best-of" discs should be the next best thing. So here's volume 1 the title I hope being a genuine indicator of Whirlie's future plans , with 16 tracks carefully chosen by Aly himself. Although it's not sequenced strictly chronologically, the disc does begin sensibly with a typical set of reels from Aly's very first solo CD, recorded in Lerwick back in , with Aly's dashing bow-strokes equally dashingly accompanied by the wonderfully sympathetic piano of Violet Tulloch and the guitar of Willie Johnson.
And from even earlier, there's a track from The Silver Bow, the mid-seventies Topic disc with Tom Anderson which did so much to bring Shetland music into public consciousness after years of commercial obscurity. Elsewhere, the disc travels around much like the itinerant Aly himself! As an instance of this, we need look no further than the legendary Transatlantic Sessions projects, of course, and a sparkling Waiting For The Federals from Series 2 is included here; but then not everyone knows that the even more legendary Channel 4 series Down Home was TS's precursor, and this disc includes no fewer than four brilliant tracks from the recording sessions for the series hopefully as a taster for the release of the whole shebang on disc soon, please!
Hearing Aly firing away in the company of illustrious fiddlers from anywhere on the planet is always one of the deepest joys that can be experienced, and for me the "session" could go on all night and into the next week and I'd still want more! Then, to balance these euphoric moments, the disc presents several of the thoughtfully considered slower compositions and arrangements in which Aly has also always excelled.
Finally, no Aly Bain collection would be complete without one of his many recordings of the traditional Shetland air Da Day Dawn, and he's chosen one of the very finest, the one with the BT Scottish Ensemble.
This is a cannily sequenced minute collection that's pretty comprehensive in its own right and works well as an independent listening programme, but on the other hand it can't help but leave me with that niggling feeling of incompleteness. Because I just know there's so much more out there in Aly's impressively exhaustive discography, and many of the original albums aren't all that readily or any longer available.
I suppose it's rather like the tip of an enormous iceberg floating in the ocean between Orkney and mainland Scotland, the catch being that the majority of the rest of that ice-floe may well be destined to remain beneath the surface. OK maybe I'm being needlessly pessimistic here - let's hope I'm proved wrong, and there now ensues a veritable flood of Aly Bain reissues! Baird quit to go solo in but after the first two albums, Love Songs For The Hearing Impaired and Buffalo Nickel, his career's been somewhat patchy.
Hodges now onboard, this marks something of a return to form. There's no envelope pushing going on, but what you do get is solid, beer-swilling, swaggering Southern country rock n roll with cranked up ringing guitars, rolling riff-packed melodies, throaty twang vocals and air punching choruses. It won't change your life, but pour a cold one and crank the likes of Lazy Monday and Runnin' Outta Time up loud, and it could well make your evening. This is an unusual record by any standards.
It can be considered doubly unusual, in fact, since Eddie's normally been responsible for the more spaciously arranged Blondel pieces - although it's not widely known that Eddie's been pursuing a parallel solo recording career for the past ten years he's released four solo CDs including a compilation, but none have been nationally distributed.
The first four songs on this disc are simply-conceived outings, initially displaying a quite jazzy demeanour, recorded close-up and live in front of an appreciative small club crowd by the sound of it. Best of this quartet are the gently reflective Memory Lane and the distinctly Tilstonesque Tramp.
Listeners coming new to Eddie's work will wonder, on the strength of these songs, why wider commercial success continues to elude Eddie. Songs like Compromised and Funny Old Life carry a laconic laid-back feel comparable to classic John Martyn, and Almost Gone has a canny grasp of delicate melody-line that recalls Clive Gregson.
Eddie's individual voice is exposed well on this brief set, ditto his deft guitar work, a talent which should be more widely appreciated too. Dear Companion is a lovely, intimate album sung and arranged by nu-folk outfit Espers' vocalist and songwriter Meg Baird: The genesis of the actual project came in an invitation to create a solo release for Philadelphia's Tequila Sunrise label, out of which nothing but a 7" single appeared and the entire LP - recorded in spare moments during the sessions for Espers II - was never made available at the time It's typically minimalist in terms of backing just Meg's own guitar or Appalachian dulcimer in the main , and Meg's clear-toned singing has never sounded more truthful and beautiful - of that I'm convinced - for she gives her all in terms of passion and conviction in "doing a really good job" of communicating these songs which evidently mean so much to her personally.
Forced to pick some highlights: Add to that an enchanting version of Sweet William And Fair Ellen, an attractive, rippling waltz-time rendition of Willie O' Winsbury and yes, it works! The final track is a gorgeous acappella rendition of the text of the opening title song as learnt from the singing of Sheila Kay Adams , bringing the experience deliciously full-circle. This record is seriously sublime, and should if there were any justice be embraced wholeheartedly by the folk community as well as by Meg's Espers fanbase.
It may be Meg's debut solo album, but I do so hope it's not her last. Baka Beyond is the seminal world-music fusion outfit founded by Martin Cradick and Su Hart, which started out on its global music exchange some 10 years ago; Rhythm Tree can be seen as the culmination of their work to date, even though after all this time we're in danger of losing the power to surprise from the juxtaposition of seemingly unlikely musico-cultural bedfellows.
The recurring constant context in which the various musics are brought together is the music of the Baka Pygmies of south-east Cameroon - hence the group name. The Baka tribe, who are masters of dance, bring an amazingly energetic spectacle to the BB live act, yet much of the uplifting quality and sheer exuberance of that collaboration also comes through on a purely audio level through the performances of the core eight-piece band you hear on this CD, notwithstanding its inevitable lack of visual distraction which as a bonus allows for greater concentration on the subtleties of the musical mix.
Here, the heady brew of Celtic, Gaelic and West African musics is so persuasive that you often have to listen really carefully to separate the strands, and in this respect I'm convinced this is the Baka's most successful marriage to date.
Musically, Rhythm Tree is a landmark in cohesive exploration of different musical cultures. I love the way in which the musical framework shifts continually withjn individual tracks, while at the same time I can appreciate the impact of specific textural or thematic elements which inform and characterise these tracks eg Su Hart's rendition of the Gaelic waulking song which forms the basis for Sad Among Strangers, the and Paddy Le Mercier's weaving violin arabesques on several of the tracks.
The Baka tribe's contributions to the album were recorded "in-house" either "in the field" or at the Music House, the purpose-built recording studio in the tribe's village funds for which were raised by the band.
One minor point, though, is that I'm not altogether convinced of the need to constantly reinforce the listener's sense of place quite so many times by interpolating natural sounds from the Baka rainforest, supremely evocative though the ululating quasi-yodel of the singer's Call Of The Forest which frames the rest of the album undeniably is. Richard "Duck" Baker is on the face of it a musician of contradictions: His expertise extends right across the fretboard of musical genres, and over the course of his year recording career so far he's made a frightening number of solo albums, encompassing not only jazz and swing, but old-time and free improv, Irish and Scottish folk tunes, and O'Carolan to Christmas carols.
Not to mention guitar instruction videos, and heaps of music criticism, and duo albums with all manner of respected musos from experimentalists John Zorn and Henry Kaiser through to fiddler Kieran Fahy and traditional singer Molly Andrews. So you'll gather that Duck's latest recording is eagerly welcomed in this house. It's a project which has "been in the works for years", sort of evolving from a response to something people have been demanding for a while: And that's just the impeccably played, yet far from soulless, solo items on the disc, the remaining half of which is given over to some sparkling duet performances.
It's probably a very old joke by now, but if you don't respond to Duck's brilliant playing then hey, you must be "quackers"! Its title is a clever wordplay on the well-known Dominic Behan song The Patriot Game suggested principally by the equally well-known tendency of musicians to carry their tunes to foreign shores.
Its equally underselling subtitle T raditional Irish And American Music simultaneously reflects the performers and the repertoire. Should you need a quick pen-picture: American-born, London-based Duck is nothing less than a definitive premier-league fingerstyle guitarist, whereas both Ben and Maggie were born to families who emigrated to England Ben's father's that celebrated old-timer Tom Paley, and Maggie was reared in the musically vibrant London-Irish community of the 60s and 70s.
Ben's a fabulous young fiddle player who readily immerses himself in activities as diverse as Scandinavian music, revivalist oldtime with his father in the New Deal String Band and the vibrant acoustic thrash of McDermotts 2 Hours and the Levellers. And last but definitely not least, Maggie's a damnably fine flute player as well as quite simply one of the loveliest singers in the entire world.
Further connectivity is assured when you realise that Duck, shortly after moving to London in the late 70s, had been responsible for introducing Maggie to Steve Tilston, sparking off one of the most wonderful collaborative partnerships of the British folk scene from the late 80s through to the mids.
So trust me, the aforementioned three musicians working together give us something truly special on this CD. Their empathy is remarkable; rarely do you hear such miraculous attunement between performers of ostensibly disparate musical disciplines or experience though anyone with a deeper knowledge of the musics concerned would argue that qualification in any case.
It's a heavenly partnership, which first trod the boards of a select few local West Yorkshire venues a mere 15 months or so back if my memory serves me rightly , and just had to spawn a studio recording! They clearly have a real good time making their music too, as you'll see from the joyously nonchalant cover photo, and in their music-making much play is made with the tension between the Irish and American senses of rhythm. A specially noteworthy feature of the performances, though, is the way in which the extraordinary talents of each of the three musicians as individuals, normally utilised in a solo situation, are adapted so very naturally to the group situation.
Duck's essentially soloistic approach, his tremendous facility for playing both melody and either countermelody or bass line, is given full rein in this unusual context of his arrangements of the tunes on this CD.
And Maggie's use of the Irish flute on indigenous American old-time tunes is somewhat of a? Ben's Swedish-style harmony playing on the well-travelled The Blackbird is an unusual but effective touch, while his intense accompaniment of Maggie's excellent rendition of A Youth Inclined To Ramble is a CD highlight. This is one of just five vocal items on this CD happily, no fewer than four of these are Maggie's, yet the fifth, Rye Whisky , brings Duck out front on an all-too-rare excursion to the vocal mike.
The faster tunes trip by abnormally lightly and fleet-footed - pieces like Poll Ha'penny which many of us first encountered as the final leg-slapping tune of the original Fairport Dirty Linen set and the closing banjo tune Robinson County are both vital and sprightly - while on the other hand the slower well, more measured! Finally a word of praise for the booklet, which manages to convey a lot of information on the tunes and songs and the performers' sources in a succinct and readable manner together with supplying the full song texts used.
The recording, a homespun production by Mike Hockenhull, faithfully reflects both a deep feel for the music and a deep knowledge of, and trust in, the musicians and their capabilities.
An exemplary release this, everywhere exuding a loving attention to detail alongside the equally exemplary musicianship. Do track it down, you'll not regret it. This is a long-overdue reissue of an important Tradition LP which presented field recordings, made in , of the playing of Etta Baker and other talented musicians of the Southern Appalachians who had never previously been recorded.
Obscure they may have seemed, but uncommonly fiery is the playing, with a raw edge and unbridled vitality for whom the word "enthusiasm" might have been coined. Since those heady days, when even specialist folkies hadn't heard anything like these musicians, other recordings have surfaced featuring fiddler Hobart Smith notably those made for the Library Of Congress where he backed his sister, singer Texas Gladden , but the rest of the musicians on this collection have remained little more than names on a discography, although the influence of their playing has pervaded that of countless aspiring traditional-style guitarists, banjo players and Appalachian dulcimer exponents ever since.
Even at a temporal remove of over 50 years, you can't fail to be moved by the tremendous power of many of the performances collected here, especially the fiddle tracks. And as well as fiddling vigorously, Hobart Smith also contributed one track on which he removed all the frets from a borrowed banjo before playing! The rest of the musicians were all recorded in their native North Carolina, and are drawn from the family and friends of guitarist Etta Baker; they play timeless popular tunes from the tradition such as Cripple Creek, Soldier's Joy and Shady Grove as well as a few less well-known pieces.
Etta's rendition of John Henry played with a jackknife blade! I also enjoyed Richard Chase's harmonica tunes for their cheery quality and his insistence on carrying the melody along rather than forcing you to listen instead to his technique. The sound quality of the disc is raw and forward, primitive by today's standards naturally, and some of the guitar pieces are rather clangy, but it's all still perfectly listenable.
In fact, a very enjoyable disc that's also of considerable historical and heritage interest. Full liner notes are reproduced, as always with the Tradition reissues. Pretty much essential I'd say. Etta Baker is the grand old lady of the blues and I'm sure she won't mind me saying that she is 91 years of age. She has influenced many a guitarist and Taj Mahal has said that she is the greatest single influence on his guitar style.
This album of songs recorded between and shows that she is a force to be reckoned with. There are two parts to the recording, the 'now' section which covers the first 11 songs and the 'then' section covering the final 7. Opening with 5 songs accompanied by Taj Mahal, Etta introduces us to her gentle style on the oft covered John Henry, the beautifully played Crow Jane, the wonder that is Going Down The Road Feeling Bad, the first self-penned track Madison Street Blues on which she airs her electric guitar and outshines guitarists half her age and the country blues of Railroad Bill.
She picks up the banjo for Cripple Creek, and this is a foot-tapper, and then continues the country theme on Johnson Boys. Going To The Race Track, a gentle acoustic blues, starts off a run of three songs and a poem featuring Etta on her own. Her dexterity is so astounding on Lost John that you will swear that you are listening to the playing of someone far younger.
Dew Drop is slower than most of the others but you can just imagine the drops of water falling from the spring flowers. Poem is exactly what the title says. It is a four line poem that perfectly sums up growing old. The final track of the 'now' category is Comb Blues and features the comb and paper as an instrument.
Taj Mahal is back for this and is joined by Algia Mae Hinton. This is a slow blues that harks back to the very beginning of the genre. In the 'then' category we are treated to seven songs that were recorded in July One Dime Blues, one of the three songs on the album written by Baker, sounds so contemporary that it is hard to believe that it was recorded nearly 50 years ago and it shows that she was an extremely good guitarist in her time.
Etta's father Boone Reid plays the banjo for Sourwood Mountain and there is just something about banjo music when it is well played. This is a wonderful example of finger picking and, although age may have slowed her down a tad, there's not too much difference in the two versions. There's a second offering from her father, a different version of Johnson Boys. The banjo playing is excellent again but having heard the later version with added fiddle I have to say that I preferred that one.
To finish off, Etta comes in with a strong version of the classic John Henry with excellent slide guitar and Bully Of The Town which is played in a gentle, acoustic Piedmont blues style.
Etta Baker is a remarkable woman and Music Maker deserves our thanks for allowing her to record again. Music Maker page for Etta Baker. The first album, Mercy, sought to address the blast and the random manner in which some died and others lived.
In , Pretty World offered meditations on gratitude, obligation and beauty. Now comes the final part, an exploration of the price of forgiveness and the cost of clinging to anger, told through songs that pivot around the homeless and helpless, and of love found, lost and held together with tape. On the bluesy title track we meet a field hand hoeing cotton "for the rest of my life" like the father that walked out on his family in despair, Mennonite tells of a religious kid from Mexico who, wearing his new 'pearl snap shirt', found love dressed in a "short short skirt' in a bar room and left the Lord behind, while, Palestine II and its prequel Palestine I unfolds the tale of a marriage that began with teenage passion in a travelling preacher's tent and has had to hold together through a tragic accident, hard times and history repeating itself with their daughter running away "with the boy selling bibles.
Speaking more than singing his narratives, Baker's dust and gravel voice variously recalls John Prine, Dylan, Steve Earle, Tom Waits and John Trudell, his sparsely arranged American songbook music hewing to southern backwoods folk disarmingly beautiful on the two step fiddle call and response swayer Who's Gonna Be Your Man and Texan country in the vein of Van Zandt and Kristofferson.
Opening with a brief snatch of Dixie, sung in the round by a female voice its 'look away' refrain returning to bring bitter resonance to the dark night guilty secrets of Moon and closing on the poignant Snow with its metaphor about being lost and emotionally frozen in a drift of your own making, it is both melancholic and life-affirming. It's hard not to be touched by the snapshots of the disenfranchised and losers who populate Signs, by the Waits-like Angel Hair where, on Christmas Eve, the singer recalls a fatal traffic accident on black ice a decade earlier, or by the unwanted pregnancy of Not Another Mary and the girl who "could not say I love you too.
But, at the end of the day, between the tears, Baker reminds you that, even if you're only getting by, life is worth persevering with and far better than the alternative.
When musicians appear at one of our Mr Kite Benefits, I often ask about what they are listening to and who they would recommend. So, you might imagine that his ears are well tuned to fine music. So, it was that I was recommended to Sam Baker. I believe Bob Harris also had his ear bent about Sam too. Indeed, if your ears don't get wrapped around his music soon, I'll be mightily surprised. Guests like Kevin Welch and Joy Lynn White lend their support on this first record suggesting that he's already attracting the attention of the great and good.
But, it's the music that is the star attraction. From the opening track, 'Waves', with its vivid imagery of walking down to the sea and writing a loved one's name in the sand just to see it washed away, I'm hooked.
Sam's lyrics are painting pictures like this all the way. From 'another bunch of boys, another blue sky' as he contrasts a baseball game and a war zone to the car 'full of baby junk' that sit on the backseat of a homeless mum's car. There are 'barbers with no nose', 'drunk cops', men 'in their underwear drinking beer', 'skinny boys with their rifles fighting door to door' and characters galore in his stories In fact, there is so much colour in his lyrics that the one word song titles are enough.
Hear one song and you'll be drawn in to hear the rest. Sam's voice adds to that colour with its gravely lived-in drawl reminding you of John Prine or Todd Snider. As my wife says, you'll be immediately won over if you're a sucker for the gravely voice.
Put that next to those lyrics that present social commentary whilst painting all sorts of pictures in your mind and I'll be very surprised if a major label doesn't pick up this record. Steve Henderson, March www. Long John Baldry - Remembering Leadbelly Stony Plain Records "Most of the songs in this collection have been part of my life since I first started singing in the mid's.
Because they are so familiar to me I was able to record my vocals and guitar work in one 'take' for most of the tracks. K - something he tends to be very self-effacing about, as those who have seen him live at any point will recognise. I know of no other headliner who gives his sidesmen such accolades whilst backing off from centre stage himself. This character trait is reflected in the bonus interview track on the very end of this CD, and the liner notes acknowledge Chris Barber and Lonnie Donegan and a host of other influences As to the content of the CD itself, well, I was amazed at the number of the tracks I knew so well whilst not having any Leadbelly in my record collection, nor, indeed, in compilation blues CDs - something I need to rectify but meanwhile LJB manages to cover this void magnificently.
This album is worthy of repeated playing, which may well have something to do with the sparseness rather than the 'over production' tendency found on so many of today's CDs. This is a tribute CD, acknowledging the input of Leadbelly, but with the unique Baldry interpretation. His vocals going from the deep huskiness, for which he is so well known, to the lighter, smoother shades of his marvellously rich voice.
There were, for me, moments of goose bumps when he sounded like Alexis Korner - but then they both inspired each other way back when. LJB's voice is a musical instrument in it's own right. His guitar playing needs no accolades. What amazes me is how perilously close he came to the possibility of not being able to perform anymore. That was back in October Having not seen him for about 20 years I was taken to a gig by a friend on a whim to The Mill at Banbury.
John was not well. He managed the first half without anyone realising the levels of pain he was experiencing. He then nearly collapsed during the second part. We took him to the hospital where they had great difficulty believing that he had played a concert that night. His finger joints were severely swollen despite being soaked in a bowl of water with all the ice from the bar during the interval.
The promoter at the venue was prepared to pay back any punters the cost of their tickets. Not a single one did. A case of 'actions being stronger than words'. John has every intention of returning to UK and Europe again next year.
At the moment he is about to go on the road in Australia and New Zealand. Catch him if you can. This CD has been played with great frequency since I got it when LJB toured the UK with the Manfreds back in June, , but I still find it virtually impossible to point the listener to any particular track.
The only solution is to just play the whole CD again and again. Just go order the CD for yourself and you can decide! Deep Purple, Fairport Convention, you get the idea - that's where my allegiances lie. So, let's improve my position a little. I'd been privileged to meet John twice, on the occasion of his sadly aborted UK Tour.
A close friend of mine knew John during the sixties, hadn't seen him since he'd moved to Canada, persuaded me to take her to the opening night in Banbury and I ended up putting this particular blues legend in hospital. If you're really interested, mail me and I'll tell what is, at best, a very dull tale. That evening, musically the gig bored me intensely. Sure, the guys were all very proficient, technically adept at what they were doing, but I just didn't get it; Long John's style of blues just ain't for me.
So, I find a copy of Johns Hypertension release ' Evening Conversation ' before me, requiring a review. I'm not exactly the best person for the job because, as I've said, I just don't buy this particular style of music. With us, you will get the sexiest and most beautiful call girls, escort and massage service in Statesboro location.
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