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NEWSLETTER #140
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 BOB DYLAN Paramount 31054 No Direction Home CD $29.98
Two DVDs, 207 mins, color and black & white, essential
We don't list Bob Dylan too often but that's not because we don't love him - particularly his early recordings. This release is really something special presenting a biography of Bob's early years from his birth in Hibbing, Minnesota through his scuffling years on the New York folk scene, his emergence as a great songwriter and the turmoil and rejection engendered when he shifted direction into a more rock oriented style resulting in him becoming frustrated and bitter. Skillfully directed by one of America's greatest filmmakers Martin Scorsese with most of the narration by Bob himself with commentary from friends and associates like Alan Ginsburg, Maria Muldaur, Joan Baez, former girl friend Susie Rotolo, Mark Spoelstra and other. It is illustrated with copious vintage photographs, film clips, home movies, rare recordings and more. Interspersed with the early footage is footage from the controversial tour of England in 1966. These performances have a savagery that seem to be an outlet for his anger at the treatment he is receiving - some of the questions and comments from reporters set my teeth on edge. The movie reminds one, if one needs reminding, what an incredible performer he was, how much he had to say, how well he said it and how well it resonates today. Even if you saw the show on PBS it's worth repeated viewing and includes several bonuses seven full length performances recorded between 1963 and 1966 including particularly compelling renditions of Man Of Constant Sorrow and Mr. Tambourine Man. There are also guest performances by Mavis Staples, Liam Clancy and others plus an unusual promotional spot for Positively 4th Street with Dylan doing some embarrassing lip synching! (FS)

 

NEW COMPACT DISCS

 
ENGLAND THE ALBION BAND Castle CMDDD 843 Albion Sunrise (The HTD Recordings 1994-1999) CD $24.98
2 CDs, total 32 tracks, 136 mins, good
Despite the dates in the title, this compilation culls tracks from 8 Albion releases recorded from 1990-99 and featuring the ever-shifting band lineup Albion fans have been used to over their long run. The quality of recording varies from the early demo-sounding tracks from "Captured" to the retro-rock anthem "Wings" that sounds more like the Doors without the lust. The original songs, whether by Ashley Hutchings, Julie Matthews, Kellie While, or other bandmembers, shares a determination to hold steadfastly to the aesthetics of about 1972, a quality Albion fans will find endearing and others may find tiresomely retro after a while. Even when they try to rock out they seem polite and restrained. Still this is a solid, heaping helping of music from one of the UK folk scene's seminal bands. (DC)

 
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)

 
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 DAVY GRAHAM Fledgling 3054 Large As Life And Twice As Natural CD $19.98
12 tracks, recommended
Another eclectic mixture of material on Davy's third Decca album from 1968 including truly unique take on Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now incorporating Irish folk and Arabic influences! Also includes Libba Cotton's Babe, It Ain't No Lie, the traditional English folk song Bruton Town, Lead Belly's Good Morning Blues, instrumental compositions in various style and more. Davy is mostly accompanied by bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Jon Hiseman with occasional input from saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith and flute player Harold McNair. Includes original cover art and liner notes plus new notes by John Renbourn and previously unpublished photos. (FS)

 
ENGLAND MANDY MORTON & SPRIGUNS English Garden 1011 Magic Lady CD $22.98
13 tracks, 38 mins, recommended
Available again. Mandy Morton and her group Spriguns were a minor but appealing element on the British folk-rock scene in the mid/late 70s. This is a reissue of a 1978 album originally on her own Banshee label. The group was strongly influenced by Fairport Convention and Morton's vocal style and songs were very much in the Sandy Denny vein with a bit of Grace Slick thrown in for good measure. The title song is tribute to Sandy who died shortly before release of the album. The songs here are all original and Spriguns provide fine accompaniments with good guitar from Byron Giles and fiddle by Tom Ling. Guest musicians include Tim Hart, Graeme Taylor and others. Worth a listen. (FS)

 
ENGLAND JACQUIE MCSHEE'S PENTANGLE Park PRKCD 53 At The Little Theatre CD $14.98
12 tracks, 72 min., highly recommended
Pentangle ranks with Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span as the most important and influential British folk groups of the 1960s, and while McShee, the only remaining member from their salad days (gone are John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, Danny Thompson), has kept the name of the group alive, she has modified it literally and musically. No longer a guitar-based folk outfit, McShee's Pentangle is even more willing to blur the musical lines now and again, moving from the traditional (The Nightingale) to the jazzy (That's The Way It Is) and elsewhere. And this incarnation still benefits from the wonderful voice of McShee, who has influenced many singers over the years, including Kate Bush and Canada's idiosyncratic Jane Siberry. But with or without all that history, At The Little Theatre (recorded live at, apparently, Chipping Norton Theatre) is a solidly enjoyable if not groundbreaking album. McShee's voice has come through the years in excellent shape, even adding some depth to her sound. (JC)

 
ENGLAND MANDY MORTON BAND English Garden 1016 Valley Of Light CD $22.98
Mandy last recording from 1983 with her band is a bit more pop oriented than her previous efforts though her songs still have that magical, mystical quality evident in her earlier recordings.

 
ENGLAND MADDY PRIOR & THE GIRLS Park 61 Bib & Tuck CD $14.98
20 tracks, 55 mins., recommended
A charming and unexpected concept album by Maddy Prior and two equally gifted singers, Rose Kemp and Abbie Lathe, in which they mostly rely on their unaccompanied three-part vocal harmonies to create gorgeous arrangements of both traditional and modern popular songs. A playful, joyful tone is set with the opening track, Rick Kemp's "Acapella Stella," a piece of fluff that still lingers in the mind long afterwards. Ewan MacColl's Sweet Thames Flow Softly is given particularly nice attention. And the last nine tracks are a suite of folk songs collected under the title "The Cotton Triangle" and dealing with various angles on the centuries of trade that brought slaves to the New World and then cotton to the mills of Lancashire. The African High-life take on the sea chanty "Haul Her Away" is quite a treat here. (DC)

 
ENGLAND JUNE TABOR Topic TSCD 557 At The Wood's Heart CD $16.98
New album from one of Britain's premiere vocalists. 12 songs with accompaniments from Huw Warren/ piano, Martin Simpson/ guitar, Andy Cutting/ accordion and others. The songs are about two thirds traditional with the rest from the pens of Anna McGarrigle, Duke Ellington, Gabriel Yacoub and Bill Caddick. Like several of her recent releases many of the songs are taken at an extremely slow pace which may or may not appeal to you - I must confess that I find my attention wandering when listening to them.

 
ENGLAND RICHARD THOMPSON Free Reed FRQCD 55 The Life & Music Of Richard Thompson CD $78.98
Five CDs, approx six hours, essential
Fabulous new five CD set devoted to one of the greatest the most important singers, songwriters and guitarists of the past 35 years. This set is truly amazing as it is exclusively drawn from previously unreleased and rare recordings rather than his commercial studio recordings - most of it performed live. The earliest performance here is a version of The Great Valerio from a 1972 concert with Linda and the most recent are two songs recorded in 2005 specially for this set including a compelling version of Crazy Man Michael. All of Richard's best known and best loved songs are here in versions that are often very different to the familiar versions. The discs each have a theme - the first explores Richard's career, through songs and events that have inspired him - never overtly political but the political undercurrent is often there. The second disc features songs that were rated as his best by a poll of friends, fans, fellow musicians and admirers. The third disc is devoted to those extended workouts that often show up in a Thompson performance including a spellbending rendition of Sloth - a song Richard rarely performed on his own and this version with Linda on harmony vocals plus Simon Nicol, Pete Zorn and dave Mattacks is one of the highlights of this set. The fourth disc features something rarely heard on his commercial recordings - his covers of other peoples songs which ranges from traditional songs to George Formby's Why Don't Women Like Me to Buddy Holly's Not Fade Away to Britney Spears' Oops I Did It Again! There are also a few versions of Richard's songs by other people with Richard on guitar. The fifth disc features songs by Richard that were recorded by others or demos of songs that were never issued at all. The first 5,000 copies of the box include a card for a sixth disc featuring songs from other Free Reed sets and recordings featuring Richard along with a couple never issued before. The set comes in 6" x 12" box with a 168 page book with biography, interview, tons of vintage and recent photos, a detailed discussion of every performance and all kinds of fascinating memorabilia. You also might want to pick the 1993 retrospective "Watching The Dark" (Hannibal 5303 - ● CD $39.97) if you don't already have it as it's an essential complement to this set. (FS)

 
IRELAND VARIOUS ARTISTS Fremeaux & Associes 5061 Irish In America, 1910-1942 CD $33.98
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)

 

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