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NEWSLETTER #139
Folk Music - American, British Isles, etc.
The Albion Band ->
Various Artists
 

 

 

NEW DVDS

 
NOTE: Unless otherwise noted all DVDs offered are in NTSC format which means that they will not play on a European DVD players unless you have a multiple format player.
 

 

AMERICAN FOLK JUDY COLLINS/ ELIZABETH COTTEN/ ROSA VALENTIN & RAFAEL MARTINEZ Shanachie DVD 610 Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest ● CD $16.98
DVD, 29 "tracks," about 2 hours, very highly recommended
Not many singers can say they were hauled in front of HUAC and blacklisted and still went on to have their own TV shows. Seeger opens the first show (circa 1966) telling stories of kings and Columbus and maggots. He doesn't explain them because he assumes his audience has a brain. Then Judy Collins comes out and they sing Dylan songs. She performs a beautiful version of Seeger's own Turn Turn Turn as well as Russian Love Song. The second show features the charming Puerto Rican duo Rosa Valentin and Rafeal Martinez who perform various native folk numbers. Elizabeth Cotton follows playing her right handed guitar left handed (Hendrix style). Cotton, whom Seeger calls "Libba," is introduced as "not a professional musician," although her songs have since been widely covered. She spent over a decade working in the Seeger household, that is the household of Pete's parents. Her numbers include Freight Train and Mama Your Papa Loves You. Each show is a miracle of informality, feeling more like a living room concert than a televised production. It's no wonder Martin Scorcese featured footage from Rainbow Quest in his recent Dylan documentary No Direction Home. A rare and wonderful document of the folk music scene, and more evidence to suggest that Seeger is more highly evolved than the rest of us. (JC)

 
AMERICAN FOLK THE CLANCY BROTHERS/ TOM PAXTON/ MAMOU CAJUN BAND Shanachie DVD 609 Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest ● CD $16.98
DVD, 25 "tracks," about 2 hours, highly recommended
That the establishment allowed Pete Seeger to have his own television show in 1965 is unlikely enough, but that they let him do whatever he wanted, which is apparently the case, probably means no one was paying attention in the board room. Seeger, clearly a bit embarrassed at joining the other side, feels the need to explain (almost apologize) for having a teevee show, going so far as to explain briefly why he doesn't like the medium. His show is as unpretentious as anything ever on the small screen. He sings, he talks, his guests do the same. A remarkably young Tom Paxton turns in an impressive 4-song set, including the anti-war-toy tune Buy A Gun For Your Son and the humorous When The Lights Went Out. The Clancys & T. Makem also get 4 songs, the most moving of which is The Butcher Boy, and it's plenty moving. Seeger himself performs a mini-Guthrie set that includes This Land Is Your Land. All that and another one hour show to boot. The second offers the same low-key, casual atmosphere, and this time his guest is the Mamou Cajun Band, a traditional three-piece made up of the famous accordion player Cyprien Landreneau, his cousin Adam on fiddle, and Revon Reed on percussion--important historic footage as well as fine music! Their set includes Mardi Gras March, Grand Mamou, I Passed By Your Door and 4 more. Seeger plays a handful of charming songs, including Skip To My Lou, which includes a banjo lesson, at no extra charge. Here's hoping there are more episodes ready to be reissued soon. (JC)

 
AMERICAN FOLK VARIOUS ARTISTS Eagle Eye DVD 39101 Festival! ● CD $14.98
First DVD reissue of Murray Lerner's documentary about the Newport Folk Festival drawn from footage filmed at four different festival during the 60s. Since the film is about the festival the musical performances are all fragmentary but it's a treat to catch glimpses of musicians like Jim Kweskin & His Jug Band, The Georgia Sea Island Singers, Pete Seeger, Odetta, Bob Dylan, Donovan, Fred McDowell, Ed Young Fife & Drum Corps, The Staple Singers, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Howling Wolf, Spokes Mashiyane, Johnny Cash, The Osborne Brothers and others.

 

NEW COMPACT DISCS

 

ENGLAND THE ALBION BAND Castle CMDDD 843 Albion Sunrise ● CD $19.98
Two CDs with 32 tracks drawn from the years 1994 through 1999 when Ashley and ever changing band were recordings for the HTD label. Musicians include Phil Beer, Julie Matthews, Simon Nicol, Chris While, Chris Leslie, Joe Broughton, Ken Nicol and others. Mostly original songs by various band members.

 
ENGLAND COOPE BOYES & SIMPSON No Masters 22 Triple Echo ● CD $19.98
The newest from this brilliant trio of acapella singers features 15 traditional songs that were collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams, George Butterworth & Percy Grainger. Includes Bushes and Briars/ The Ploughboy's Dream/ The Turtle Dove/ Riley the Fisherman/ Lovely Joan and more. Includes 12 page booklet with informative song collection notes.

 
ENGLAND MARTIN CARTHY Topic TSCD 527 Waiting For Angels ● CD $16.98
11 tracks, 56 mins., recommended
Every new outing by the eternal Carthy is cause for celebration. This set of songs is slow, pensive, and deliberate as only Carthy can be. His voice has finally acquired the slight raspiness of age, but his languid storytelling is still unmatched. And, as always, his scholarship offers another level of enjoyment, as he introduces the songs in the booklet, explaining the lyrical origins and how he embezzled melodies from elsewhere in the tradition to give them new life and new meaning. A few instrumental tracks break things up, notably a quirky take on the Harry Lime Theme. And long-time fans will be interested in his revisiting of The Famous Flower of Serving Men, his admitted favorite ballad ever and one he hasn't recorded in over 30 years. Comparing this version to the one on "Shearwater" shows how 30 years have mutated the story. Carthy's new version doesn't soar like the last one, but the gruesome tale draws you in just the same. (DC)

 
IRELAND KARAN CASEY Shanachie 78063 Chasing The Sun ● CD $16.98
13 tracks, 50 mins., good
Casey's reedy, vulnerable voice is a sweet instrument when matched up with a hot Celtic band and well-crafted songs. Her work with Solas still stands as some of the finest Irish trad music of this generation. And after launching off on a solo career several years ago, she retained much of that power and panache. But this fourth solo CD suffers from some less than stellar original songs that all seem to share a pop shallowness that mostly went out in the folk-pop decline of the 70s. Still, the backing quartet is solid and Casey delivers the lyrics with cool confidence. Fans will no doubt be delighted with this, but some of us would love to hear her run with stronger material. (DC)

 
ENGLAND SHIRLEY COLLINS, DAVY GRAHAM Fledgling Records 3052 Folk Roots, New Routes ● CD $16.98
16 tracks, 49 mins, essential
Available for a while on Topic and then deleted, this wonderful, groundbreaking album from 1964 is now available on Fledgling and what a joy it is! Shirley sings a collection of traditional English and American songs in her sweet, breathy and vulnerable vocal style with guitar accompaniments from Davy Graham who, at the time, was beginning to make an impression on the British folk scene with his innovative techniques. The complex, yet never intrusive accompaniments incorporates elements of blues, jazz and Middle Eastern music and was to provide a benchmark for legions of future folk performers to add intricate guitar arrangements to their telling of traditional tales. Among the songs are Nottamun Town/ Proud Maisrie/ Hares On The Mountain/ Pretty Saro/ Jane, Jane/ Hori Horo/ Dearest Dear and others. There is also one song by Shirley with her own banjo accompaniments, an unaccompanied songs and three superb instruemntals from Davy. After more than 40 years this album still has the ability to thrill and dazzle the listener. (FS)

 
AMERICAN FOLK BARBARA DANE & THE CHAMBERS BROTHERS DBK Works 517 Barbara Dane & The Chambers Brothers ● CD $15.98
9 tracks, 39 min., highly recommended
Recorded in 1965 (when few if any LP covers sported white and black performers together) this stands as not only folk singer Barbara Dane's finest album, it's easily the best thing the Chambers Brothers ever cut--recorded, as it was, while they were still a gospel act. (Soon after this, the brothers gave their talents to rock and roll with unspectacular results.) Unlike a lot of folk albums of this vintage, this one has aged well, partly because the human voice never goes out of style. The then 38-year-old Dane combines her voice with the Chambers Brothers as naturally as can be imagined. The recordings are spare and beautiful. Their version of Come By Here will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up in appreciation. And their a capella versions of Freedom Is A Constant Struggle and Go Tell It On The Mountain come close. (JC)

 
IRELAND DANU Shanachie 78061 When All Is Said And Done ● CD $16.98
12 tracks, 51 mins., recommended
A joyous fourth outing by this hot licks Irish band. Oisin McCauley and Benny McCarthy lock their fiddle and accordion together like no one since Kevin Burke and Jackie Daly. The crackling tune sets are nicely tempered by the songs featuring Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, though the band really catches fire with the instrumental tracks. Nic Amhlaoibh 's version of Dylan's "Farewell Angelina" doesn't quite work but she more than makes up for it with a hilarious "Only Nineteen Years Old". Banjo whiz Gerry O'Connor sits in for one track in this well-balanced set. (DC)

 
ENGLAND FAIRPORT CONVENTION Island (UK) IMCD 310 Nine ● CD $16.98
13 tracks, 56 mins, recommended
Newly remastered version of the groups 9th album from 1973 with four bonus cuts. It features the same line up as "Rosie" but is a stronger album with one of Swarb's best vocals on To Althea From Prison - a 17th century poem by Richard Lovelace set to music. Trevor Lucas does a fine job on the traditional Polly On The ShoreBring 'Em Down and Jerry Donahue shows us his guitar chops on the instrumental Tokyo. One of the bonus is the great instrumental The Devil In The Kitchen (Fiddlestix) originally issued as a single in Australia. The others are from a live 1973 show and includes a fine version of Dylan's George Jackson. Includes booklet with new notes by Jerry Donahue. (FS)

 
ENGLAND FAIRPORT CONVENTION Island (UK) IMCD 311 Live Convention ● CD $16.98
14 tracks, 77 mins, recommended
Newly remastered reissue of 1974 album, with five bonus tracks, with live recordings featuring the group after Sandy Denny had rejoined the band. She is joined by her husband Trevor Lucas, brilliant guitarist Jerry Donahue and the three Daves (Swarbrick, Mattacks & Pegg). The first nine tracks comprises the original album features fine versions of songs from previous albums like Matty Groves/ John The Gun/ Sloth, etc along with Dylan's Down In The Flood and Chris Kenner's Something You Got. The last five tracks are from a concert in Sydney, Australia in January of '74 and includes versions of The Heamshire Lass/ Bring 'Em Down/ That'll Be The Day and others. Excellent sound and booklet has notes by Jerry Donahue. (FS)

 
ENGLAND FAIRPORT CONVENTION Island (UK) IMCD 312 Rising For The Moon ● CD $16.98
15 tracks, 56 min., recommended
A newly remastered of reissue of the 1975 album with Sandy Denny and Trevor Lucas handling most of the vocals, joined by Swarbrick, Pegg, Mattacks, Rowland, and Jerry Donahue on guitars. This is not one of the watershed albums and contains no big hit, though Sandy's songwriting is good even when not inspired. Lucas' songs tend toward American folky clich‚s with plenty of railroad images, and sound like they're off in a very different direction from Denny's. Still, they're handled well here. And a delightful surprise is Swarbrick's Night-Time Girl, cocky and fun. This is the band in transition, and a missing link worth filling in any Fairport collection. The four bonus cuts include the B-side of the White Dress single and three demos by Sandy of songs on the album. (DC)

 
ENGLAND DAVY GRAHAM Fledgling 3051 Hat ● CD $16.98
14 tracks, 34 mins, highly recommended
First CD reissue of Davy's final Decca album from 1969. An astonsihingly eclectic selection of material including traditional songs plus songs from Lennon & McCartney, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Willie Dixon and others and an equally eclectic selection of instrumental pieces which includes a Bulgarian dance, an African inspired tune from Art Blakey and others. While Davy's singing isn't always that compelling his playing consistently dazzling and inventive and always appropriate. On some tracks he is joined by preier bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Johnny Spooner. Includes reproduction of original garish cover art plus booklet with new notes by Ken Hunt. (FS)

 
AMERICAN FOLK WOODY GUTHRIE/ LEADBELLY Smithsonian Folkways 40000 Folkway - The Original Vision ● CD $16.98
26 tracks, 62 min., highly recommended This repackaging of the 1989 initial offering from the newly-formed Smithsonian Folkways label (a non profit organization, mind you) adds a healthy 12 cuts and notes on each song, including some by Guthrie and Lead Belly themselves. The songs are more or less evenly split, with the final cut (We Shall Be Free) being a duet between with both men. The recordings are from the 1940s, and while relatively spare sounding, they feature, at times, such musicians as Cisco Houston, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGee, Pops Foster, and Willie "The Lion" Smith. But it's Guthrie and Lead Belly that command all the attention. This disc highlights two of the most influential and talented folk artists of all time. Guthrie tracks include: Do-Re-Mi, Philadelphia Lawyer, Car Song, This Land Is Your Land, Grand Coulee Dam, among others. Lead Belly cuts include Bring Me A Little Water, Sylvie, Gray Goose, Midnight Special, Rock Island Line, Cotton Fields, and more. What's not to like? (JC)

 
ENGLAND JOHN KIRKPATRICK & CHRIS PARKINSON Fledgling Records 3056 The Sultans Of Squeeze ● CD $16.98
15 tracks, highly recommended
Delightful collection of songs and tunes from these two masters of the squeezebox. Between them they play a vast array of different concertinas, melodeons and accordions. The material is as eclectic a scan be with traditional English folk songs sitting alongside dance band favorites like Under Paris Skies and the tango El Choclo. We also get Pete Townshend's naughty Squeeze Box, Clifton Chenier's Zydeco blues I'm A Hog, some original tunes and a whole lot more. Throughout the duetting squeezeboxes work wonderfully full of imagination and wit and there are also some great vocals. A winner all the way. (FS)

 
ENGLAND JACQUIE MCSHEE'S PENTANGLE Park PRKCD 53 At The Little Theatre ● CD $14.98
12 tracks recorded live at the Chipping Norton Theatre - She Moved Through The Fair/ Once I had A Sweetheart/ That's the way It Is/ I've Got A Feeling/ Cruel Sister, etc.

 
AMERICAN FOLK JEAN RITCHIE Smithsonian Folkways 40145 Ballads From Her Appalachian Family Tradition ● CD $15.98
16 tracks, 72 min., highly recommended Not a new release but not reviewed before. Reissuing the 1961 Folkways LP, this CD features traditional singer and American national treasure Jean Richie bringing to life 16 of the "Child Ballads" (named for the 19th century scholar Francis James Child, who collected an impressively large number of English and Scottish ballads and their many variations). As it happened, British ballads thrived in Appalachia (home of the singing Richie family), long after most were thought extinct. To listen to these songs (mostly a cappella, a few with Appalachian dulcimer accompanying) is to be transported back in time, sometimes as far as the 17th century. And yet the ballads still have the power to transfix listeners, from the Mary, Joseph, and Jesus tale of Cherry Tree Carol to the mostly nonsensical lyric of Old Bangum. Other songs include Gypsy Laddie, Lord Thomas And Fair Ellender, Sweet William And Lady Margaret, and others. Booklet notes are included for each song as is a note from Richie herself. As beautiful as treachery, jealousy, revenge and misery are ever likely to be. (JC)

 
ENGLAND DAVE SWARBRICK Castle CMDDD 933 It Suits Me Well - The Transatlantic Anthology ● CD $18.98
Two CD set with Swarb at his best. The first disc features 21 tracks drawn from the four albums he recorded for Transatlantic/ Logo between 1976 and 1983 including solo sides, tracks with Martin Carthy or Simon Nicol on guitar and tracks with the "Full House" Faiport Convention line up. The second disc features nine sides mostly previously unissued recorded live at The Cambridge Folk Festival in 1982 and 1984 - four with a group including Simon Nicol, Timi Donald, Dave Pegg and Beryl Marriot and five with his new group Whippersnapper.

 
ENGLAND VARIOUS ARTISTS DejaVu Retro 4280 A History Of Progressive Folk ● CD $12.98
Two CD set with 22 tracks (mostly from live shows).
FAIRPORT CONVENTION: Madeleine/ Matty Groves-Dirty Linen/ Meet On The Ledge/ Now Be Thankful/ KARNATAKA: After The Rain/ Heaven Can Wait/ LINDISFARNE: Anyway The Wind Blows/ Lady Eleanor/ Meet Me On The Corner/ MOSTLY AUTUMN: Shindig/ Shrinking Violet/ MOSTY AUTUMN: Prints In The Stone/ PENTANGLE: No Love Is Sorrow/ People On The Highway/ Will The Circle Be Unbroken/ Willy O'Winsbury/ STEELEYE SPAN: Black Jack Davy/ Cam Ye O'er Frae France/ Thomas The Rhymer/ THE STRAWBS: Lay Down/ Ringing Down The Years/ The River-Down By The Sea

 
IRELAND VARIOUS ARTISTS Fremeaux & Associes 5061 Irish In America, 1910-1942 ● CD $25.98
2 CDs, total 36 tracks, 149 mins., good
As history, this is a fascinating look at the immigrant Irish-American musicians in the first half of the 20th century and the breadth of their artistic expression. As listening music it leaves a bit to be desired. Admittedly the sources are many and of varying quality, from awful to merely passable. And there's little continuity of instrumentation or feel from track to track, so it's difficult to just sit and listen through top to bottom. But there are a few gems tucked away here among the average tracks by sadly average players. The greats like piper Michael Carny and fiddlers Michael Coleman and Paddy Killoran are given their moment in the spotlight. But other better albums by these masters are available elsewhere without all the odd fillers included here. The historical notes are in good French and oddly translated English. (DC)

 
AMERICAN FOLK VARIOUS ARTISTS Smithsonian Folkways 40159 Dark Holler - Old Love Songs And Ballads ● CD $15.98
CD/ DVD combination. The CD is a stunning collection of traditional, mostly unaccompanied, ballad singing recorded in Madison County, North Carolina in the mid 60s by musician/ folklorist John Cohen. It features performances by Dillard Chandler, Dellie Norton, Cass Wallin and others. The DVD is documentary on Chandler "The End Of And Old Song" filmed by Cohen in 1967 and 1968 and released in 1973. Includes 32 page illustrated booklet with extensive notes by Cohen.

 
ENGLAND VARIOUS ARTISTS Vetern 150 Heel & Toe ● CD $19.98
20 recordings of traditional songs, music hall songs and traditional tunes collected by enthusiast Sam Steele between 1959 and 1962 in Norfolk, Cambridgeshire & Essex. Includes Percy Brown (melodeon player), Charlie Giddings (singer), Hockey Feltwell (singer), Walter & Daiser Bulwer (fiddle & piano), Reg Bacon (singer) and others. Includes 24 page copiously illustrated booklet with extensive notes.

 
SCOTLAND VARIOUS ARTISTS Wax 01 Bayside & Benside - Scottish Music From Northern Califo ● CD $14.98
17 tracks, 56 min., highly recommended This thoroughly delightful album features some of the finest musicians in the Northern California Scottish music scene working their magic on a traditional (yet varied) set. Among the better known is the Santa Cruz-based Molly's Revenge, who offer up an exclusive track (Jagged Rocks Set); while Wicked Tinkers cofounder Aaron Shaw adds both highland and lowland bagpipes to several tunes. Album engineer Joe Weed also fiddles on a charming rendition of Charlie Is My Darling to beautiful effect. Lesser known (though no less talented) performers include the promising new band Hamewith, which offers up two exclusive cuts, including Shetland Blues, one of the finest numbers here. But perhaps the biggest treat is the utterly gorgeous sound created by Calli Morrow (harp) and Susan Worland (fiddle) of their three tracks: Butterfly Jig, Fhear a'Bhata (The Boatman), and Rowing From Islay To Uist. This CD, the brainchild of Berkeley Scotophile and bodhran player Michael Bentley, was conceived as a fundraiser for the Northern California Camanachd Club, the first shinty club in the U.S. (Shinty is a 2000-year-old Scottish team sport, a sort of combination of golf, soccer, and open warfare.) So proceeds benefit the NCCC, but the real reason to partake is to support your own habit for great Scottish music. (JC)

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