Signup for a folk alley account

Here's what's Hot (and already in Fresh Cuts); And Here's what's on the spot.

June 12, 2007

As you might guess, I review LOTs of new releases, often 20 a week. Since I've been listening to the latest for over 30 years, like it or not, I'm in a position to notice invention and xeroxes. The use of poetic devices, implied themes, clever arrangements, and the like are always a plus, but let's focus on originality. These impressions may or may not reflect our entire staff.


Dynamo Laura Love cannot be imitated. Her roots-rock funk-folk group is cutting edge and entertaining. Continuing to stay one step ahead of her audience, Negrass presents a whole new band (Scott Vestal, Tim O'Brien, even another bassist, Mike Bub). Laura recently went on a search of her family history; her great grandmother survived slavery for example, and migrated north (Check out the song Saskatchewan). This album demanded lots of research and preparation and it shows. Even old warhorses like Shady Grove are presented so differently, its almost as if it's a new song. Even though she's gone bluegrass here, the energy ROCKS; you could dance to the whole album and check out the lyrics on the 3rd or 4th listen. Then you'll never tire of it.


Is this Celtic or Middle Eastern? Wait a minute... aren't The McDades from Alberta? I saw this group stun the Folk Alliance crowd in Nashville a few years ago and today they are even better. A family band with years of experience,
you cannot pigeon-hole them. Their instrumentals start with an Irish flair, but feature jazz like solos and arrangements. The melodies seem influenced by Eastern European style time signatures, often featuring bass solos, and Jeremiah McDade almost cannot contain himself on flutes and whistles. He just explodes. The group has male and female lead singers, good song selection, and they don't copy what they listen to.

joe craven.jpg

This one came out in 2005 but we just got it. All instrumental, each selection is a fusion of traditions from two different countries and features Joe on at least 7 instruments. You might hear Jamaica and Ireland, Africa and Appalachia, or a tune like 'Turkey in the Straw' the way Frenchmen Django Reinhardt might have played it. David Grisman calls Craven the world's most versatile sideman, and this time it's Joe who has plenty of help (Mike Marshall, Jim Boggio) though he barely needs them! Try to contain yourself listening to this, and be thankful you don't have my job trying to figure out which tunes NOT to play on Folk Alley!


Two words: SLOW DOWN. If everything is in high gear all the time, then there's no place to go. There's also the risk of every song sounding the same. Yes, speed is fun, but style is better. The Hackensaws own all the right instruments, now they need to give them a chance to breathe. Start with composition - writing or choosing songs with a message. Tell us the story in a colorful way; use imagery. It's often a good idea to hire a producer who doesn't know your material; a fresh set of ears will open yours. There were a couple gems on the last album, especially High Faller about witnessing a death. This was very moving, and demonstrates that the ingredients are there. The Hackensaws will get better, but not if they rush things.

bob mccarthy.jpg

I'm guessing Bob attended Jorma Kaukonen's Fur Peace music camp in Ohio, because he sounds just like Jorma. The trouble is, we already have Jorma. Too many of these songs have been chosen too many times. (Deep River Blues, Sittin' On Top of The World, Keep on the Sunny Side, Pallet on the Floor.) Unfortunately, each version sounds too much like Doc Watson's or Jorma's. If you're going to tackle one of these songs, change it. Put it in a different key, add other instruments, make it YOURS. Listen to Harry Manx tackle Sittin' on Top, or Laura Love's arrangement of Shady Grove. Recording familiar songs demands reinvention. There's nothing wrong with going to a restaurant and trying to make the same meal at home. There's no need, however, to make it for us. We can go to the same restaurant. It's obvious Bob knows how to cook. I want to taste his recipes!

chocolate drops.jpg
(On the Spot...)

I often tell Linda Fahey that I listen to every CD the same way I attend every movie. I do not pretend to be neutral. I expect to like it. What other way is there to live? If I'm disappointed, so be it, but I don't walk in the door with a scowl. When the Chocolate Drops played Merlefest in April, I rushed to the stage to see them. I left after three songs. Old music played the same old way - they danced, but nothing looked very challenging. I thought the album might be different, but there's nothing there that isn't already in our library on other CDs or records. They're being touted as an "African American string band" and that's fine, but what makes the Chocolate Drops special? This question need to be answered before the next recording. I'm afraid we've already received this one several times.

Jim Blum

Posted by Jim Blum at June 12, 2007 7:11 PM

Support Folk Alley During Our Spring Fund Drive!


Recent Topics



April 2018
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30               

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018

December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

December 2016

November 2016

October 2016

September 2016

August 2016

July 2016

May 2016

April 2016

March 2016

February 2016

January 2016

December 2015

November 2015

October 2015

September 2015

August 2015

July 2015

June 2015

May 2015

April 2015

March 2015

February 2015

January 2015

December 2014

October 2014

September 2014

August 2014

July 2014

June 2014

April 2014

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013

September 2013

August 2013

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012

June 2012

May 2012

April 2012

March 2012

February 2012

January 2012

December 2011

November 2011

October 2011

September 2011

August 2011

July 2011

June 2011

May 2011

April 2011

March 2011

February 2011

January 2011

December 2010

November 2010

October 2010

September 2010

August 2010

July 2010

May 2010

April 2010

March 2010

February 2010

January 2010

December 2009

November 2009

October 2009

September 2009

August 2009

July 2009

June 2009

May 2009

April 2009

March 2009

February 2009

January 2009

December 2008

November 2008

October 2008

September 2008

August 2008

July 2008

June 2008

May 2008

April 2008

March 2008

February 2008

January 2008

December 2007

November 2007

October 2007

September 2007

August 2007

July 2007

June 2007

May 2007

April 2007

March 2007

February 2007

January 2007

December 2006

November 2006

October 2006

September 2006

August 2006

July 2006

June 2006

May 2006

April 2006

March 2006

February 2006

January 2006

December 2005

November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005

January 2005

December 2004

November 2004

October 2004

September 2004

August 2004

July 2004

June 2004

May 2004

April 2004

March 2004

February 2004

January 2004

December 2003

November 2003

October 2003

September 2003

August 2003