Mark Erelli's latest project is multi-faceted. The production varies from solo acoustic to a fully electric 5 piece band. There are two very long songs, while others pass by in an instant. He writes about Iraq and personal failures, and features songs inspired by abandoned farms and Studs Terkel. His somewhat raspy delivery is full of insight as you discover new ideology and find yourself thinking twice about the things you previously believed in.
Take for example the album's first song: "Hope Dies Last," inspired by Terkel's book of the same name from 2003. Mark lists examples of recent events in our lives, and wonders if we are NOT improving. It's hard to disagree. He sings of blame in "Volunteers," the story of a national guardsman who volunteered for duty but was among the first to be accused, along with other soldiers, when the war in Iraq became unpopular. The album's best may be "Unraveled," a road song full of angst, alliteration, and decision. The arrangement is a mix of contemporary and traditional, with guitar, harmonica, drums, and banjo.
There is a note on Mark Erelli's one-sheet about a "change in direction." Though Mark is now a father, the change is implied to be musical, but the same vision and savvy still emanates from him; I don't think he can change that.
A few years ago I interviewed Pete and I was told beforehand that he would not sing or play. Yet, he brought his banjo to the interview. Ten minutes later he was singing and playing. He also said that he would refuse to participate in the three Appleseed Tribute albums --- until they were being recorded. He's on all three of them. Even though he claims he cannot sing anymore and that he struggles to play, he cannot stop, and we are all the more fortunate. He's trying to be considerate, but I think he knows we still crave him.
He does have a lot of help, however. A large group of family and friends, likely unknown outside his Hudson River Valley, handle the bulk of the singing, and are often featured in choral sing-alongs. Sometimes these arrangements come off a little "stagey," but they all have strong messages delivered with courage. Pete does play the banjo well and is featured on several solos.
On "At 89" he deliberately sings, plays, and talks. He is candid and as sharp as always. He is disturbed by what he sees, and though forever hopeful, Pete now has serious doubts about the future of the world. I fear that world without him.
Australian Kasey Chambers has fluctuated between rock, pop, folk, and, bluegrass. Despite these swings, she has drawn a different audience with each style presented, and remarkably kept another audience which favors everything she does. With "Rattlin' Bones" she is at it again. Now teamed with partner (and husband) Shane Nicholson, we have an album of Americana duets. On top of that, they are all original, and they are all strong.
The album's lead track offers and example of poetic personification with Nicholson talking to sorrow as if it was another person standing there. "Once in a While" is a bittersweet wish to be remembered positively despite falling short in a lover's eyes and heart: "...If I'm not what you wanted, I hope I gave you a few smiles." The song "Monkey on a Wire" separates a person from their desires, difficult for most of us to consider. "Wildflower" urges lovers who may be different in age not to give up: "She's a wildflower; he's an old man."
All of these gems are acoustic with a full complement of players (mandolin, banjo, dobro). All of them are bouncy and fun, even the sad ones are a joy to hear because of the connections you make with them.
Years ago we thought it was strange when Johnny Cash recorded versions of his most famous songs in foreign languages. It was even stranger to hear of bluegrass bands from Japan, Italy, Russia, and the former Czechoslovakia. More recently, the Scottish band Shooglenifty recorded a live album in Mexico City. Perhaps it's not strange at all. There are audiences everywhere who appreciate and enjoy traditions outside their own, and these same individuals realize that they have the power to refuse the pop-pabulum that is being served through conventional commercial broadcast. You can turn off the ordinary and search for the unique. Today the internet (including Folk Alley) makes those searches even easier.
That's a long way of saying that having a Swedish group Vasen, (pronounced "VEH-sen") record a live album in Japan may not be odd after all. The audience cheers them on like they were at a sporting event. The sound of the fiddle or viola (Mikael Marin) and the three row chromatic nyckelharpa (Olav Johannsen) is exciting and dramatic even if it is new to your ears. A whole album may be a little same-sounding, but a number of these tunes will really spice up our mix and yours.
The 60's folk revival was centered around two locations, Greenwich Village in New York City and Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At the heart of the Harvard Square scene was a small coffeehouse called Club 47, currently known as Club Passim.
On Friday, October 24 at 8 a.m., Noon, 8 p.m. and Midnight EDT (GMT -5) Folk Alley presents a "Club Passim Turns 50" - a radio special, produced by WGBH in Boston, celebrating this important folk music mecca. The special mixes interviews with performances by many of the singers and musicians who played an active role in the development of the Club 47 and the 60's folk revival. Peter Rowan, Geoff Muldaur, Carolyn Hester, and Bob Jones are just a few of the many voices that tell the story of the Club 47's humble beginnings, its legacy as a launching pad for artists like Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Tom Rush, and Taj Mahal, and the birth of a new American bohemianism.
Recorded at the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square on the 50th anniversary of the day the Club 47 opened in 1958, the program (in the best of folk traditions) is an oral history of a time that was indeed "a changin'".
While they were passing through town, Robin & Linda Williams (and Their Fine Band) took a small detour to come into the Folk Alley studios and record a Folk Alley Extra. As they were setting up, I took some video with my new camera (an RCA Small Wonder, which has a flash drive and takes really low-res pics - I broke my last camera, so I'm simultaneously going high and low tech with the new one). Hear a song from their new album Buena Vista (and check it out when their dog walks through the room - he's so cute)!
Fotheringay 2 - The Lost Second Album - Jerry Donahue Interview
October 14, 2008
When Sandy Denny left Fairport Convention in 1969, she formed the band Fotheringay. They made one highly regarded album in 1970 and split up due to Sandy's decision for a solo career. Before they called it quits though, the band were working on a second album, but it was never released - until now. Thirty-five years later, Fotheringay 2 finally sees the light from Fledg'ling Records. Taken from the original master tapes, this new recording is superb with crystal clear quality. Highlights include the first recorded version of Sandy's "John the Gun" and a rocking interpretation of the traditional "Eppie Moray." Recently, I spoke with guitarist Jerry Donahue about the production of this new album, along with the history of Fotheringay. Listen to the exclusive story and interview below with many sound samples from this new album. Check out the rare video clip too of Fotheringay in action from 1970.
Listen: Exclusive Fotheringay 2 interview with Jerry Donahue:
The newly formed partnership between Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent picked up a whopping six IBMA Awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association for their debut effort. Included in their stack were prizes for Entertainer of the Year, Vocal Group of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year (for Dailey), Album of the Year, Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year and Emerging Artist of the Year.
Shocker of the year was Dale Ann Bradley breaking Darrin's sister Rhonda's hold on the Female Vocalist of the Year title. Instrumental Group of the Year went to Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, Song of the Year to Blue Highway's "Through the Window of a Train," Instrumental Album of the Year to Sound of the Slide Guitar from Andy Hall and Recorded Event of the Year to Everett Lilly & Everybody and Their Brother (which, looking at the list of participants, is an apt title).
Instrumental titles went to Kristin Scott Benson for banjo (becoming only the third woman to win an IBMA instrument award), Barry Bales for bass, Michael Cleveland for fiddle, Rob Ickes for dobro, Josh Williams for guitar and Adam Steffey for mandolin.
Kingston Trio Founder Nick Reynolds Passes at Age 75
October 3, 2008
Nick Reynolds, a founding member of the legendary '60s folk group the Kingston Trio, died Oct. 1 from complications following surgery. The beginning of a pop/folk movement in the late '50s that used banjos and acoustic guitars to back up tight vocal harmonies of traditional folk songs, the Kingston Trio had a huge hit with "Tom Dooley" in 1958 that led to multiple hit albums on Capitol and a long list of groups inspired by their style. At a time when acoustic music and beautiful vocals crowded the top of the charts, the Kingston Trio led the pack, selling millions of records and creating a genre. When the change in political climate and rise of rock and roll prompted the group to split, Reynolds retired the music industry in 1967 and turned his attention to ranching and selling antiques in Oregon. He moved to Southern California in the mid-80s and performed with a new version of the Kingston Trio for a decade beginning in 1988.
For those of us that really meant to stay up and watch Pete Seeger (with Guy Davis, Ruthie Ungar Merenda, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger and I'm guessing Michael Merenda) on The Late Show with David Letterman, I found some video on YouTube. Great stuff, especially when Pete gets the audience to join in on the chorus and then clap along. I'll bet that doesn't happen too often with bands on Letterman.