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Cooking With New Releases; Here's What's On The Stove. (Better Read This Before You Order Though...)

December 17, 2007

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Garnet Rogers- Get a Witness (live)
Two years ago Garnet Rogers, Greg Brown, Karen Savoca, and Pete Heitzman recorded an album at "The Black Sheep" in Wakefield, Quebec. It must be a cool club because Garnet went back to record his own live album there. Just so you know, Get a Witness is a mix of electric band, solo acoustic, and a few hybrids. The song dictates the recipe for production (as it should). "Beyond this Wall" is a dramatic expose from a soldier in Afghanistan fighting against child warriors as he wonders about his own child who he's never met. Tough stuff, but that's the reality which our music will not avoid. "Summer Lightening" allows us to follow a traveling songwriter. We hear his thoughts until one fateful night in a lonely hotel room. I featured this song recently in honor of the sudden passing of Scott Fetterolf who ran a folk club in Akron, Ohio. It's a sad song, but it's magical at the same time, and that's life isn't it? It may be death too... Garnet Rogers is often a master chef. Taste this album and you'll be back for more.

Various Artists- I'm Not There (soundtrack)
As poetic as Bob Dylan has been for over 4 decades, it's about time someone has attempted a poetic description of his life. Though I haven't seen the movie, I understand that 5 different actors portray this much recognized writer, and one of them is a woman. It's too bad that this soundtrack isn't as original. Nearly 3 dozen artists chose Dylan songs but it wasn't until number 9 into the first CD that someone didn't try to sound like Dylan. Of course, it's hard not to once you've heard his distinctive delivery. Two very different groups, Iron and Wine and Calexico, combined to record "Dark Eyes." It's startling, and that's good. With the exception of Richie Havens and Willie Nelson, many of the other contributors sound like they're trying to do Dylan imitations. Use a chef's recipe, but do your own cooking. After all, that's how Bob got started. (My thanks to Brian Siewiorek of WYEP in Pittsburgh for making sure I received this album)

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Robin & Linda Williams- Radio Songs
How old is A Prairie Home Companion? Some history books will take you back to the early eighties; others mention 1974. Either way, Robin & Linda Williams have been with Garrison Keillor almost since the beginning. Their new album, Radio Songs, features highlights from their many appearances on the show. In fact, you can hear Garrison's intros on several songs and he sings on a few others. Highlights include the Carter Family's "By the Touch of Her Hand" and a curious song about someone wandering across America written by Dave Hull called "Restless One." The album is long and somewhat same-sounding, so the title may have a double meaning, being very appropriate for radio (or internet) stations, which program one song here and there. Fans of Robin and Linda's will look at the menu and want to order the whole thing, and that's fine too. Radio Songs is a fun reminder of how important this couple has been to the best-known radio show in the world that honors our music.

Gypsy Soul- Beneath the Covers
Cilette Swann has been singing with Gypsy Soul for 8 albums now. This is their first using songs written by others (thus the clever title) and they revisit a couple of their own. These revisits may be the best, perhaps like the cook tweaking his or her own recipe. Take "Silver Lining" for example. The lyrics are the same as when they wrote it, but now Cilette sings them with an experience only age can bring:

"Every heartache is a lesson, every choice a risk
Every child is a promise, every faith has its test
Every soul has an answer, if we only listen to it."

This is a wake-up call about having the right attitude. We all have the choice on whether to focus on dark clouds or silver linings - since both lay in front of us. The covers include songs by Chris Isaak, The Moody Blues and U2, and they're not bad. Swann may be overly dramatic at times, but there's not too much else to pick at. There may be better versions, including the originals, but at least Gypsy Soul put their own mark on the recipe, which is most important.

Jim Blum

Posted by Jim Blum at 7:46 PM

Download the December Alleycast!

December 13, 2007

Jandek ALBUM COVER Six and Six.jpg Jandek ALBUM COVER The Living End.jpg Jandek ALBUM COVER You Walk Alone.jpg

The Alleycast for December features Folk Alley's exclusive concert recording with Arlo Guthrie, plus our in-studio session recording with The Polyjesters. Open Mic artists Mat D. and Fallen Ivory are featured on this episode, along with a special montage of Holiday favorites. We'll also feature the work and story of the mysterious Jandek, a musician who has released 51 records with virtually no information known about him. Download The Alleycast today.

Posted by Chris Boros at 11:46 AM | Comments (1)

Folk Alley's Top CDs of 2007 v.7

December 10, 2007

Elena See – Folk Alley Music Host – Top CD List for 2007

Richard Shindell - South of Delia
To me, this album epitomizes all that is good and great about the world of folk music. Richard Shindell, after careful consideration and personal reflection, chose a collection of 12 songs that mean something to him…it’s a cover album, for sure, but it’s one of those albums that you don’t expect anyone to make. Peter Gabriel next to Bruce Springsteen? Harry Robertson alongside of Jeffrey Foucault? And yet…it works.
Favorite Song: ‘Northbound 35’

Lori McKenna - Unglamorous
I didn’t expect to like this album – I admit it. This is a departure for Lori McKenna. She travels, in this album, from the sparse world of kitchen table folk to the twang of pop-country, which isn’t surprising, given that Tim McGraw produced it. However, McKenna’s songs are still intensely intimate, and she’s still telling a great story.
My favorite? Track 3: ‘Your Next Lover.’ I WISH I was generous enough to feel that way.

Lyle Lovett - It’s Not Big It’s Large
I like this album from Lyle Lovett and his Large Band for a couple of reasons. First, the title of the album – frankly, it makes me chuckle. And second: he does it again! He goes from jazz to pop to ballad to rock and mixes the lyrics and lush orchestration (or hard driving beat, depending) to perfection. It doesn’t matter what mood you are in when you listen to this: there WILL be a song that says it all. I’m a sucker for the ballads on this one – they break my heart.
Favorite Song: ‘Don’t Cry a Tear’

Alison Krauss & Robert Plant - Raising Sand
This is my ‘surprise’ album of the year. I’m not a huge Alison Krauss fan and neither am I a huge Robert Plant fan. Don’t get me wrong -- I like them both. I just wouldn’t necessarily choose either of them to grace my top 10. But this album – it’s fascinating. It’s got a good story behind it (they met at a tribute to Leadbelly and decided to try to work together) and the queen of bluegrass and one of the dukes in world of rock and roll really compliment each other nicely. There are tunes on the album that play up both their strengths, along with a great supporting cast of musicians.
Favorite Song: ‘Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us’

Over the Rhine - The Trumpet Child
I’ve been a rabid fan of this Ohio-based band since the release of their last album, Drunkard’s Prayer. And this album…well, it’s different. Where were the personal anecdotes? The stories of love and loss and struggle? The album was not what I expected and I admit it took several listens before I decided I liked it – no, I loved it. I think what I like about this album, and actually, about all of OTR’s albums – they’re so darn sad. And so romantic. And so intense. And yet…they present all these intense emotions in a casual, almost funny, way.
Favorite Song: ‘Let’s Spend the Day in Bed’

Posted by Linda Fahey at 7:08 AM | Comments (1)

Folk Alley's Top CDs of 2007 v.6

December 9, 2007

Barb Heller - Folk Alley Music Host - Top CD List for 2007

Shawn Camp & Billy Burnette - The Bluegrass Elvises, Vol 1
Camp & Burnette team up to deliver 13 of the King's greatest hits. Priceless. It was released on the 30th anniversary of Elvis' death.

Claire Lynch - Crowd Favorites
A collection of some of Claire's most requested songs from her entire repertoire, spanning decades with her own band, and the Front Porch String Band. Her version of Wabash Cannonball is one of my favorites.

Robin & Linda Williams - Radio Songs
A collection of recordings from their "Prairie Home Companion" performances over the years. Best cut by a mile: "Marvin & Mavis Smiley - Down Home Diva". It keeps me laughing out loud!

The Infamous Stringdusters - Fork in the Road
This group of young Nashville veterans has done a fine job with every one of the dozen tracks on this album. My favorite (a tough pick!): Poor Boy's Delight.

Ricky Skaggs & The Whites - Salt of the Earth
13 tracks of really nice family harmonies that span a few generations. It just gives me a good feeling to listen to bluegrass gospel songs done by this one big family.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 5:13 PM

Folk Alley's Top CDs of 2007 v.5

December 8, 2007

Jim Blum - Folk Alley Music Host - Top CD List for 2007

In reverse order,

10) Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem - Big Old Life
9) Mamadou Diabate - Heritage (released late in 2006)
8) Neil Young - Live from Massey Hall, 1971
7) Terri Hendrix- The Spiritual Kind
6) Grada - Cloudy Day Navigation
5) King Wilke - Low Country Suite
4) Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby - Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby
3) Emmylou Harris - Songbird: Rare Tracks and Forgotten Gems (4 CD boxed set)
2) Laura Love - Negrass
1) Susan Werner - The Gospel Truth

Near Misses - 2007 releases by Loreena McKennett, The Roches, Mountain Heart, James Taylor, The McDades, Eric Bibb, Buddy Greene, Over The Rhine, Steve Earle, and, of course, Eliza Gilkyson.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 11:37 AM

Folk Alley's Top CDs of 2007 v.4

December 7, 2007

Jeff St. Clair - Folk Alley Music Host - Top CD List for 2007

Peter Rowan & Tony Rice – Quartet
These two bluegrass greats can even make Shady Grove sound fresh- tight harmonies throughout plus sublime guitar work. The final song says it best - “Perfection”
Favorite Song - “Shady Grove”

Mary Gauthier - Between Daylight and Dark
Gauthier takes us into forgotten America - but she writes with the wisdom of experience.
Favorite Song - "Between the Daylight and the Dark”

Kane, Welch, Kaplin - Kane, Welch, Kaplin
Proof that Nashville is not just business, it can have soul too.
Favorite Song - “That’s What I’ve Got”

Neil Young - Massey Hall 1971
When Old Man was new - a moment in history. Part of an unfolding multi-volume retrospective.
Impossible to choose favorite song - like choosing who your favorite child.

Avett Brothers – Emotionalism
These guys can really sing. Buy it for your girlfriend. She’ll love you for it.
Favorite Song - “Living of Love”

Eilen Jewell - Letters from Sinners & Strangers
Straight out of a speak-easy that only serves the good stuff.
Favorite Song - “Where They Never Say Your Name”

LAU - Lightweights & Gentlemen
f-ing brilliant.
Favorite Song - “Hinba”

Iron & Wine - Shepherd’s Dog
Sam Beam straddles avant-garde and folk and somehow makes it seem effortless.
Favorite Song - “Resurrection Fern”

Fionn Regan - The End of History
Another kid with his guitar … but with fresh melodies and a fresh voice.
Favorite Song - “Put a Penny in the Slot”

Posted by Linda Fahey at 5:06 PM

Folk Alley's Top CDs of 2007 v.3

Chris Boros - Folk Alley's Production & Operations Director - Top CD List for 2007

Lau - Lightweights & Gentleman
High energy Celtic sounds from a trio that sounds like a sextet.
Favorite Song - “Hinba”

Iron & Wine - The Sheppard’s Dog
Sam Beam continues his low key folk style offerings in a more produced effort than his previous albums.
Favorite Song - “Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car”

Fairport Convention - Sense of Occasion
Celebrating 40 glorious years!!
Favorite Song - “Tam Lin”

Richard Thompson - Sweet Warrior
His first full electric record in years, and possibly one of his all time bests.
Favorite Song - “Johnny’s Far Away”

Martin Simpson - Prodigal Son
A new CD from a classic English musician that sounds just as fresh as his early material.
Favorite Song - “Batchelors Hall”

Kris Drever - Black Water
The young sound of Scottish folk music with absolute original arrangements.
Favorite Song - “Fause Fause”

Beoga – Mischief
A quirky, odd, and completely original Celtic band that sounds like no other group in Irish music.
Favorite Song - “Mischief”

Butane Variations - Butane Variations
Acoustic vibes mixed with fuzzy 1970’s electric guitar. Freak Folk just got better.
Favorite Song - “Skyward, Upward”

Infamous Stringdusters - Fork in the Road
New young energy in American bluegrass. These guys really know how to rock.
Favorite Song - “40 West”

Jandek - Brooklyn Wednesday
The king of outsider music’s 50th album and his first box set, featuring 4 CDs of live material.
Favorite Song - “Put Me There”

Posted by Linda Fahey at 1:05 PM | Comments (2)

Folk Alley's Top CDs of 2007 v.2

December 6, 2007

Ann VerWiebe - Folk Alley's Website & Newsletter Editor - Top 10 CD List for 2007

Susan Werner - The Gospel Truth
Werner uses her singer/songwriter talents to create an unusual collection of ruminations on faith told from an agnostic’s point of view. A CD that makes you think while you’re enjoying the well-crafted songs.
Favorite Song - “Probably Not”

Josh Ritter - The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
A large, wonderful CD filled with humable melodies and powerful storytelling – stretching Ritter’s acoustic roots. Some have criticized Ritter for his Dylanesque sound on a few numbers, but if we had to silence every neo-folkie who had Dylan moments, it would be a very quiet room.
Favorite Song - “Rumors”

Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby - Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby
An unexpected acoustic collaboration that draws on the strengths of two talented musicians. Skaggs has long been the master of the trad bluegrass revival and he uses his instrumentation to blend with the versatile Hornsby.
Favorite Song - “Mandolin Rain”

Uncle Earl - Waterloo, Tennessee
A more than convincing example of the good that comes from groups comprised of legitimate solo artists – here KC Groves, Abigail Washburn, Rayna Gellert and Kristin Andreassen – as they combine their musical parts to create an engaging whole.
Favorite Song - “Streak o’ Lean, Streak o’ Fat”

Mountain Heart - Road That Never Ends: The Live Album
Mountain Heart’s first CD with new lead singer, Josh Shilling, demonstrates the roots rock side of bluegrass with high energy live cuts. One of the rising young bands in bluegrass nearly crackles in its natural setting – live performance.
Favorite Song - “While The Getting’s Good”

Marc Cohn - Join the Parade
The long awaited new CD from the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter who was blown out of his writer’s block by a 2006 gunshot to the head. Cohn has been under the radar for awhile (his last CD came out in 1998), but his bluesy voice and storytelling skills are winning new fans.
Favorite Song - “Giving Up the Ghost”

The Greencards – Viridian
American bluegrass filtered through a foreign perspective in the guise of two Aussies and a Brit who met in Austin, TX. A good range of traditional roots music and a more contemporary sound. Great chops that drew the attention of Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan, who took them out on tour last year.
Favorite Song - “Here You Are”

Loudon Wainwright III - Strange Weirdos: Music From and Inspired by the Film Knocked Up
Not your average film soundtrack, “Knocked Up” director and admitted Wainwright fan Jud Apatow asked the singer/songwriter to write the score after hearing him perform many of these songs in LA. One of Wainwright’s most well-rounded recent collections.
Favorite Song - “Daughter”

The Roches – Moonswept
All three sisters – Suzzy, Maggie and Terre – plus Suzzy’s daughter, Lucy Wainwright Roche, on a new collection of great songs that prove they’re still the best when it comes to heartfelt lyrics and sing-along harmonies.
Favorite Song - “No Shoes”

Raul Malo - After Hours
The former lead singer of The Mavericks returns with a solo collection of covers honoring the country crooners of the ‘50s and ‘60s – including songs by Buck Owens, Roger Miller and Hank Williams.
Favorite Song - “Crying Time”

Posted by Linda Fahey at 4:23 PM

Folk Alley's Top CDs of 2007

December 5, 2007

Just like clockwork, December means it's time to roll out the 2007 "Best Of" Lists! At Folk Alley, each one of our hosts and staff members has come up with a list of their personal favorites for the year. And, just like the diversity of folk music you hear in our stream, the members of our staff have widely diverse tastes in folk music too. In the next few days we’ll roll out our individual lists right here.

Linda Fahey - Folk Alley's Programming & Marketing Director - Top CD List for 2007

I tend to slant more towards Americana out of everyone at Folk Alley. When I choose my Favorite CDs of the year, I just ask myself one question. What CDs of 2007 will I add to my personal collection and reach for 5 years from now to take on a road trip.

Here’s what I came up with for 2007!

Patty Griffin - Children Running Through
Levon Helm - Dirt Farmer
The Greencards – Viridian
Eilen Jewell - Letters from Sinners and Strangers
Lucinda Williams – West
Uncle Earl - Waterloo, Tennesee
Russ Barenberg - When At Last
Kane Welch Kaplin - Kane Welch Kaplin

Please send us your Favorite CD/Song List of 2007 and help us build our Best of 2007 side stream for January!

Posted by Linda Fahey at 2:06 PM | Comments (1)

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