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Bulletin - May/ June 2009
Folk Music - America, British Isles & European
Norman & Nancy Blake ->
Malvina Reynolds




AMERICAN FOLK NORMAN & NANCY BLAKE & THE BOYS OF THE LOUGH Plectrafone 40125 Rising Fawn Gathering $15.98
12 tracks, 49 min., essential
In 1978 the Blakes appeared at a festival with the Boys and then played together informally after hours. Then in 1984 they played together at Harvard in a series of shows set up by Rounder Records. Norman and Nancy (and James Bryan, who toured with them) had wanted to record with the Boys since then, and 23 short years later, they did. These recordings from 2007, include not just Norman and Nancy (and James Bryan) and the Boys of the Lough, but Bryan's 20-year-old daughter Rachel as well. Selections include The Stockton & Redesdale Hornpipes; The Bonny Bunch Of Roses, from the early 19th century; While The Band Is Playing Dixie, a Spanish-American War song published in 1900 and recorded by Sara and Maybelle Carter in the 1960s; as well as more recent fare, such as The El Paso Waltz, written by Dave Richardson (of the Boys); and Castleberry's March, penned by Nancy Blake. The music here is nothing short of beautiful, and the many musicians sound as if they have been playing together all their lives. An absolute good. (JC)

IRELAND THE BOTHY BAND Mulligan (US) 3013 Out Of The Wind Into The Sun $17.98
10 tracks, very highly recommended
This 1977 album was the third by this brilliant group. A powerful and exciting selection of songs and tunes. The instrumental pieces range from the wildly exhilarating The Morning Star to the gentle Maid Of Michaelstown . There are three lovely vocals by Triona Ni Dhomnaill - three familiar songs which are given new life by Triona and the band - Streets Of Derry/ The Sailor Boy/ The Factory Girl. Wonderful stuff. (FS)

AMERICAN FOLK THE HIGHWAYMEN Varese 66847 The Folk Hits Collection $13.98
19 tracks, 67 min., highly recommended
It would be short work for any mathematician worth his salt to demonstrate definitively in a proof that The Highwaymen are not cool now and never have been, even when they were folk stars twinkling in the firmament of the early 1960s. So clueless were they that their original name was The Clansmen (named for their love of Scottish folk music, one imagines), with apparently no understanding of the negative connotations that just might attach to the moniker. Their big hit: Michael (Row The Boat Ashore). Their look: collegiate (of course they were in college) and preppy. They would look at home in a Wonderbread commercial. And yet...damn if these guys don't sing real nice. And it isn't just that they all have great voices either; they sound as if they are actually enjoying themselves, joyful even. So while Bob Dylan may have sent groups like this--The Brothers Four come to mind--to the far reaches of folk history, in the case of The Highwaymen, anyway, it is worth the journey. This collection gathers their better known work from 1961-64 and tips in some recordings from this century because these guys still get together and make music. Songs include Marching To Pretoria/ I'll Fly Away, Tom Paxton's Ramblin' Boy, Red Is The Rose/ Mighty Day, and the previously obscure Leadbelly number Cotton Fields which the boys rescued and rode up the pop charts, only stopping at #13. Worth investigating for fans of the genre who may have heretofore shied away from the "uncool" side of sixties folk music. Besides, uncool is the new cool and it always was. (JC)

AMERICAN FOLK MALVINA REYNOLDS Omni 114 Sings The Truth $17.98
29 tracks, 79 min., recommended
I confess that I have never enjoyed Reynolds work, have always found it to be self-important and preachy, even as I find myself agreeing with some of her observations. But after listening to this collection, I realize that I had never heard these early tracks, but only the later Cassandra stuff. This release reissues her Tells The Truth LP (made for Columbia in 1967 and produced by John Hammond) for the first time on CD, and the remaining cuts are all live shots previously unreleased in any form. The Columbia sides waxed when Reynolds was in her mid-sixties, include her best-known song Little Boxes, which was a rare Pop hit for Pete Seeger, and What Have They Done To The Rain?, which was a hit for The Searchers. The live material comes from a concert in 1965 recorded by KPFA (three cuts), a concert from 1967 recorded by KQED (6 cuts), and two 1970s era shows (4 cuts). In all, this album finds the feisty Reynolds at the top of her game. (JC)


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