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NEWSLETTER #146
Folk Music - American, British Isles, etc.
Sandy Denny ->
Various Artists + Book
 

 

 

NEW BOOK

 
CHASING THE RISING SUN The Journey Of An American Song by Ted Anthony $25.95
Hardbound, 308 pages, counts as 6 CDs for shipping
"Chasing the Rising Sun" is the story of an American musical journey told by prize-winning writer, Ted Anthony, who traced "House of the Rising Sun" (a song most people know by its 1964 hit recording by British Invasion group the Animals) in its many incarnations as it was carried across the world by some of the most famous singers of the 20th century. The American origins of the song--a ballad about a place in New Orleans, a whorehouse or a prison or gambling joint, that's been the ruin of many poor girls or boys--can be traced to folk music collector Alan Lomax's 1937 recording of Georgia Turner singing "The Rising Sun Blues". After Lomax deposited the song in the Library of Congress and included it in the 1941 book "Our Singing Country," it was learned and recorded by Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Leadbelly, and Josh White. From there it began to move to the planet's farthest corners. Anthony began his search in New Orleans; from there, he traveled to the Appalachians--eastern Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, and western North Carolina--to search for the song's beginnings. He interviewed scores of singers who performed the song, and even attempted to find out if there really was a House of the Rising Sun. Through his own journey, he discovered how American traditions survived and prospered--and how a piece of culture moves through the modern world, propelled by technology, globalization, and recorded sound.

 

NEW COMPACT DISCS

 
ENGLAND SANDY DENNY Island (UK) 984 992-8 Live At The BBC $76.98
Three CDs - 44 tracks/ DVD - three songs plus bonus materials, essential for Sandy Denny fans, recommended for others
Three CD plus one DVD set in book format featuring all the performances broadcast by the wonderful Sandy Denny on the BBC between 1966 and 1973 with the exception of two that no-one seems to have. Since the good old BBC frequently reused tapes of broadcasts or threw them out after use quite a few of these performances have had to come from second generation recordings (mostly taped off the air by fans) and sound qaulity on some is pretty rough and will only be appreciated by diehard fans. However there are also quite a few performances with very good to superb sound. Most of these performances are versions of songs she recorded commercially but here most feature Sandy accompanied only by her own guitar or piano and it's a real joy to hear these songs in stripped down versions since the commercial recordings were sometimes over-arranged. Among the songs featured are Fhir A'Bhata/ Hold On To Me Babe/ The Optimist/ The Lowlands Of Holland/ The Music Weaver (two versions)/ It'll Take A Long Time (two versions)/Who Knows Where The Time Goes/ Whispering Grass/ Solo/ Sweet Rosemary/ Next Time Around/ John The Gun (two versions)/ Bushes And Briars/ Blackwaterside (three versions)/The Sea Captain/ This Train/ The Last Thing On My Mind/ Been On The Road So Long/ The North Star Grassman & The Ravens (two versions) and more. The second CD also includes an interesting interview from 1972 with Sandy. The DVD features three songs from the "One In Ten" show in 1971 - The North Star Grassman And The ravens/ Crazy Lady Blues and Late November. Bonus features includes excerpts from Sandy's notebooks, a photo gallery and a discography. (FS)

 
ENGLAND TONY HALL Free Reed 03 Fieldvole Music $15.98
24 tracks, essential
What a delight to finally have this fabulous 1977 album on CD - one of my favorite English folk albums of that era. When I first bought the LP some 30 years ago and heard the sprightly, melodic strains of Tripping Upstairs I knew I was in for something special and I was right. Tony is a fabulous melodeon player who plays with skill, imagination a light and swinging touch and was much in demand as a session musician in the 70s though only occasionally performed under his own name as he had a successful career as a cartoonist under the name Fieldvole. In the past 30 years he has only made two albums - both superb but this one is a masterpiece. The instrumental tracks includes English and Irish traditional tunes along with a French tune Tony learned from his mother. On a number of tunes he is joined by Nic Jones (fiddle, guitar) and/or Johnny Moynihan (mandolin, bouzouki, whistle). But, wait, there's more. Tony was also a fabulous singer with a warm, low key, but extremely expressive style and has some great songs here including the gorgeous Holmfirth Anthem which is probably better known as Pratty Flowers or Abroad For Pleasure. There are a lot of gruesome songs in traditional music but few quite as grisly as Andrew Rose - an outstanding performance. For me, the standout is probably Shallow Brown, a slow paced sea shanty with one of the most beautiful melodies I've ever heard though Just As The Tide Was Flowing is not far behind. On several of the songs he has Keith Pearshouse and Ian McCoy providing very effective vocal choruses. As gilding on the lily we have seven previously unissued tracks from the original sessions that are of the same high standard as the issued tracks. I particularly like music with a strong melody line and their few albums that are quite as consistently melodious as this one. If you have any interest in folk music from the British Isles you owe it to yourself to hear this album. (FS)

 
AMERICAN FOLK IAN & SYLVIA Collector's Choice 762 Lovin' Sound/ Full Circle $17.98
22 tracks, 72 min., recommended
Canadian folksters Ian & Sylvia recorded traditional and original material, throwing in a nice mix of contemporary covers. This twofer release reissues their pair of MGM LPs, "Lovin' Sound" representing their first steps into electified folk and folk rock, while "Full Circle" continued, if more subtly, their exploration of country music begun on their Nashville album. Lovin' is only mildly successful artistically, with highlights coming on Dylan's I Don't Believe You and the original Where Did All The Love Go. The cover of Johnny Cash's Big River is the aural equivalent of watching a small child walk around in his father's shoes. "Full Circle" sports another Dylan cover Tears of Rage (although it predates Dylan's own release) and anticipates the sound on the "Great Speckled Bird" LP from 1970, making it the reason to pick this up. The original LP covers and backs have been reproduced, good news for fans of Sylvia's cleavage. New liner notes complete the package. (JC)

 
ENGLAND JOHN KIRKPATRICK Free Reed 01 Plain Capers $15.98
16 tracks + bonus video track, very highly recommended
Subtitled "Morris Dance Tunes from the Cotswolds" this was originally released in 1976 on Free Reed and reissued on CD by Topic in 1993. This new reissue has been newly remastered and includes a bonus video track about the making of the album with interviews with John Kirpatrick and Neil Wayne. Kirkpatrick is a wonderfully appealing performer on all his various squeeze boxes and probably knows enough about Morris Dancing to earn a PhD or two. This is a fun CD for lovers of English music, even if you don't dance a step. If you do dance, not only can you crank this CD up and go wild, but the booklet contains an astonishing amount of information on Morris dancing and the Longborough style in particular. Martin Carthy, Sue Harris, Martin Brinsford, and Fi Fraser round out the band and play it all with necessary and consummate gusto. (DC/ FS)

 
SCOTLAND LAU Compass 4458 Lightweights & Gentlemen $15.98
Good new Scottish group performing traditional, more recent and original songs and tunes accompanying themselves with guitar, Dobro, fiddle and accordion.

 
AMERICAN FOLK THE CHAD MITCHELL TRIO Varese 66815 The Chad Mitchell Trio Collection $13.98
17 tracks, 50 min., recommended
Along with such groups as Peter, Paul And Many, The Chad Mitchell Trio played an important role in the popularizing of folk music in the early 1960s, directly before Bob Dylan and others began to dominate the genre. Pulled from three LPs, these Kapp recordings boast excellent sound and admirably display the considerable vocal talents of the trio. The satirical The John Birch Society, featuring guitar from Fred Hellerman (The Weavers) stands as a high water mark, with their cover of Blowin' In The Wind and the delicately beautiful Alberta not far away. Many tracks feature guitar and banjo work from Jim McGuinn, who would go on to great fame with The Byrds after changing his first name to Roger. This release does a nice job documenting the first half of the trio's career. The best of Mercury CD chronicles the other half. (JC)

 
IRELAND MOVING HEARTS Warner (UK) 19979-2 The Platinum Collection $12.98
A 14 track introduction to the recordings of this groundbreaking and influential Irish folk-rock band that were active between 1981 and 1983. Initially featuring the lead vocals of Christy Moore who was replaced by another superb singer Mick Hanley after Christy left to pursue a solo career. The band also included the ubiquitous Donal Lunny on a range of instruments, uileann piper Davey Spillane and guitarist Declan Sinott. Their material often had a political including their superb rendition of the Jim Page song Hiroshima Nagasaki Russian Roulette.

 
AUSTRALIA REDGUM Columbia (Australia) 462552-2 Caught In The Act $23.98
15 tracks, highly recommended
Superb Australian group recorded live in 1983 and produced by Trevor Lucas. Many of the songs here are also featured on "Against The Grain" - a fabulous collection of some of their best studio recordings we listed last time. Arrangements are a bit different here and this concert introduced their greatest song I Was Only 19 (A walk In the Light Green) and the introduction gives us the background to the song (based on the true experiences of two of John Schumann's friends) and explains the meaning of the subtitle. There are also some great songs not featured on the other album including Stewie and It Doesn't Matter To Me. Lots of the spoken word material between the songs relates to Australian politics and most will be lost on non-Aussie audiences. Still, a very fine album. (FS)

 
AUSTRALIA REDGUM Columbia (Australia) 90092000 Against The Grain - The Redgum Anthology, 1976-1986 $23.98
19 tracks, 71 mins, essential
We've finally been able to get our hands on copies of this fantastic CD featuring some of the best songs recorded by this fabulous Australian folk-rock band between 1976 and 1986. Redgum wrote and performed some of the most powerful and creative songs dealing with social and political issues of the era. Although set in an Australian environment the songs deal with issues of universal significance and were mostly written by band members John Schumann, Michael Atkinson and Hugh McDonald. Their most famous song I Was Only 19 about a returning Vietnam veteran is an incredibly powerful anti-war song that deserves to be much better known. It never fails to send a chill down my spine. Other songs deal with environmental pressures (Still Life), exploitation of the young (Gladstone Pier), collaboration with the U.S. war machine (The Last Frontier and their parody of the Beach Boys Surfing USA called Serving USA), political survelillance (Asio) and more. Although recorded more than 20 years ago the songs are eerily contemporary, particularly in the aftermath of 9/11. Like many of the best political songs they also have memorable melodies. Lead vocals mostly feature the distinctive gritty voice of Schumann along with contributions from McDonald plus one track by Verity Truman. Instrumental work is oustanding - carefully blending acoustic & electric guitars, violin, sax and occasional synthesizer and the production by McDonald or Trevor Lucas is superb. I can't recommend this highly enough. (FS)

 
AMERICAN FOLK PAUL ROBESON Rev-Ola 208 The Man They Couldn't Silence $15.98
28 track collection of this great artist's most popular and important recordings - Summertime/ It Takes A Long Pull To Get There/ The Song Of Freedom/ Deep River/ Ol' Man River/ St. Louis BluesRockin' Chair/ Gloomy Sunday/ Killing Song/ Go Down Moses/ Mah Lindy Lou, etc.

 
ENGLAND STEELEYE SPAN Park 64 Present - The Very Best Of Steeleye Span $22.98
Two CDs, 18 tracks, 92 mins, highly recommended
Originally issued in England in 2002 it has only just been made available to the Park U.S. distributor. The selections on this collection were chosen from a poll of Steeleye fans and featured the most popular line up from the 70s and 80s with the exception of drummer Liam Genockey who had replaced original drummer Nigel Pegrum who had emigrated to Australia in 1990. With the exception of Peter Knight's gorgeous Go Down all the songs are traditional and the performances find the band in top form with Maddy Prior's vocals still sending a chill down the spine and Bob Johnson and Peter Knight providing imaginative electric guitar and violin parts. Some of the arrangements are similar to the original recordings while others are substantially different. Songs include Sir James The Rose (with fine lead vocal by Bob Johnson)/ Cam Ye O'er Frae France/ Lyke Wake Dirge/ Two Magicians/ All Around My Hat/ John Barleycorn/ Misty Moisty Morning/ Gaudete (which reached #14 in the U.K. charts)/ Drink Down The Moon and more. A real delight. (FS)

 
ENGLAND LINDA THOMPSON Rounder 3217 Versatile Heart $15.98
13 tracks, recommended
The long awaited followup to Linda's magnificent return to form on the 2003 album "Fashionably Late" (Rounder 3182 - $15.98). While not as strong as that release this album features some fine singing and songs - many of them written by Linda Thompson. Arrangements range from the solo acoustic guitar of her son Teddy to electric band to a string quartet. Highlights include Go Home, the traditional Katy Cruel and a new arrangement of her Grammy nominated song Give Me A sad Song. (FS)

 
ENGLAND RICHARD & LINDA THOMPSON Island IMCD 327 In Concert, November 1975 $14.98
Fabulous live set recorded during Richard & Linda's November 1975 tour to support their new album release - the classic "Pour Down Like Silver". In addition to songs from that album they perform songs from their first two albums along with a set of tunes from "Morris On", a Faiport Song and covers of songs by Ricky Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis , Hank Williams and Buck Owens. They are accompanied by the "dream team" of Dave Mattacks, Dave Pegg & John Kirkpatrick.

 
ENGLAND VARIOUS ARTISTS Free Reed 04 The Tale Of Ale $15.98
Reissue of 1977 Free Reed two LP set featuring songs and reading about beer. 45 tracks including songs and music by Peter Bellamy, Robin Dransfield, Vic Gammon, Roy Harris, The Pump & Pluck band, Musica Inebriata and others and readings from William Rushton, Joby Blanshard & Michael Smee. Includes eight page booklet with notes on all the tracks.

 
AMERICAN FOLK VARIOUS ARTISTS Smithsonian-Folkways 40195 If You Ain't Got The Do-Re-Mi $13.98
27 tracks, highly recommended
Another collection of gems from the vast and endlessly rewarding vaults of Folkways Records. This one has 27 songs around the subject of money (mostly the lack of it). In addition to the classic title song by it's composer Woody Guthrie we have such other well known songs as Bill Morgan & His Gal (best known from it's refrain - "My Name Is Morgan/ But It Ain't J.P." sung here by The New Lost City Ramblers), Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out (by Rolf Cahn and Eric Von Schmidt), Brother, Can You Spare A Dime by Joe Glazer as well as other lesser known but equally fine songs like Empty Pocket Blues/ One Meat Ball/ Banks Of Marble/ The Money Rolls In/ The Miller And His Sons and more. The music encompasses folk, blues, old timey, jazz and a calypso. About half the tracks are making their first appearance on CD here and the enclosed booklet has notes on all the songs. (FS)

 
ENGLAND VARIOUS ARTISTS Talking Elephant 115 A Touch Of Morris $18.98
17 tracks, highly recommended
A delightful collection of tunes with the occasional song to accompany the English dance form known as the morris dance. It is generally associated with England though expatriat Brits have taken it all over the world. This collection of tunes mostly features electric folk bands and soloists associated with legendary father of British traditional folk-rock Ashley Hutchings. There are no recording details but I would imagine the recordings range from the 70s to the 90s and includes recordings by Chris Leslie, The Albion Dance Band, Grandson Of Morris On, Fairport Convention, The Morris On Band, Great Grandson Of Morris On, The Albion Christmas Band and more. There is also a spoken word piece with Ashley reading Cecil Sharp's account of collecting his first morris dance. (FS)

 

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