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July 14, 2011

New Music for July

In 1984, Robin and Linda Williams were asked to write songs for a musical about General Stonewall Jackson. The end result was Stonewall Country, a show that ran for 20 years at the Lime Kiln Theater in Lexington, Virginia. To mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, Robin and Linda have recorded their songs, which are rich in history - and high-energy bluegrass. 

A new CD from Gillian Welch is always an anticipated event. She is one of the few folk artists who can rise to the top of the rankings all on their own. Her latest, The Harrow & The Harvest, was offered by Folk Alley and NPR Music as a first listen before it was released to the general public, so we could enjoy Gillian's deep, rich vocals one day early. If you listened (or even if you didn't) and want a copy of your own, you can click on the link above to go to Amazon. Folk Alley gets a little piece of your purchase, which helps support our bottom line.

The Juno Award-winning Jayme Stone is all about the banjo. His curiousity about the instrument led him to Mali in West Africa and now his latest CD, Room of Wonders, features music inspired by folk dances from around the world. And - with entries from Blugaria, France, Italy, Norway and more - he really means "aound the world." He has a group of fine musicians helping him out (including Casey Driessen on fiddle) helping him out. The CD earned a Juno nomination for Best Instrumental Album. 

If current technology has made it easier to record a CD, it hasn't made it easier to secure funding. Or, maybe it has. The trio Hotels & Highways raised money through Kickstarter to produce Lost River. Crowdfunding isn't new (it's basically the model that supports Folk Alley!), but it's been gaining attention as artists turn away from traditional labels and look to the people that already love their music - the fans. To maintain their lowkey approach, Hotels & Highways hunkered down and recorded the album in 10 days in a New York cabin. 

More new CDs to take to the beach:

Rod Picott - "Welding Burns"
The Roys - "Lonesome Whistle"
Jonathan Edwards - "My Love Will Keep"
David Bromberg - "Use Me"
Al Petteway & Amy White - "High in the Blue Ridge"
Putnam Smith - "We Could Be Beekeepers"
Fish & Bird - "Every Whisper is a Shout"
Runa - "Stretched on Your Grave"
Patti Smith - "Twelve"
Malcolm Holcombe - "To Drink the Rain"
Bettysoo & Doug Cox - "Across the Borderline: Lie to Me"
Catherine MacLellan - "Silhouette"
Kasey Chambers - "Little Bird"
Mike Scott & Guests - "Blue Moon of Kentucky"
Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 6:49 PM

Review: Putnam Smith ~ We Could Be Beekeepers

Putnam Smith.jpgby Jim Blum,

Putnam Smith
We Could Be Beekeepers

Some of the most charming people you'll meet will tell you that they feel out of place. Take Putnam Smith for example. With his rustic outfit and never fading smile, he looks like he stepped out of an early American history book. In fact, he'll tell you that he would probably feel more comfortable in the 19th Century. It makes no difference - his new release of old sounding music shines and it's ours to treasure now.

This multi-talented minstrel from Maine writes using literal or implied themes and accompanies himself on guitar, banjo, and piano. Filling out the sound are Seth Yentes on cello and Joe Meo on clarinet. Two singers join him, Jenee Halstead and Mariel Vandesteel, who also plays fiddle throughout.

The album opens with an original instrumental "I Dream of Apple Orchards" which is edgy and should inspire you to dance. There you have it, one song and you're on your feet.

On "Say Darlin Say" Putnam is joined by Mariel in sort of a singing proposal of old fashioned love. It's clever and can easily make you wistful for a sweeter, simpler time. The cello/violin interludes are impressive. Perhaps the most thought provoking number is "Thought I Knew," a coming of age message about returning home years later. Putnam reveals to us that the character in the song almost doesn't recognize himself in his old possessions; he has changed so much.

The music is fun, the ideas are thoughtful, and the variety of instruments keeps your interest. If you are ever fortunate to meet Putnam Smith or better yet to hear him play and sing, don't be surprised if you too don't begin to feel like stepping into the past.

Posted by Jim Blum at 4:51 PM

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