Signup for a folk alley account

Review: Gilkyson, Gorka & Kaplansky - Red Horse

September 24, 2010

Red Horse big.jpgby Jim Blum

Eliza Gilkyson, John Gorka & Lucy Kaplansky
Red Horse
(Red House Records)

LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh did it. Why stop at basketball? Three superstar folk singers & writers have teamed up to record and tour. You may have missed the news until now, as there was no "Decision" TV show to make this musical announcement. I also don't recall the "home" cities of these songwriters tearing down concert posters and burning their artist T-shirts. The resulting "team" however is certainly super.

The three take turns singing each other's songs and they toss in a few favorites. John sings Lucy's "Don't Mind Me." Lucy sings John's "Blue Chalk," a sorrowful observation about friends making poor choices. Eliza covers a song from very early in the Gorka library, "If I Could Forget to Breathe." A highlight is Eliza's "I Am a Child" from the Buffalo Springfield's Neil Young. Duke Levine is the unsung hero of this album. The multi-talented musician sometimes plays 4 instruments on one song; on the albums closer, "Wayfaring Stranger" sung by Kaplansky, Duke plays acoustic guitar, lap steel, mandola and baritone electric guitar. In typical Levine fashion, none of this is for show, it's all about support.

Unlike their basketball counterparts, I expect these three to return to their own careers and their own cities. And the only heartbreaking going on will be caused by the words of a sad song, or the touching delivery. Ahh... if professional sports could only learn from us.

(Jim Blum resides in northeast case that isn't obvious.)

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

Review: John Mellencamp - No Better Than This

September 16, 2010

John Mellencamp No Better Than This.jpgby Mike Regenstreif

No Better Than This

When John Mellencamp released an album of old blues and folk songs in 2003 called Trouble No More, I wrote - in a Montreal Gazette review that also ran in the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal - that "Mellencamp has often shown a rootsy side to his music, but here he immerses himself in roots music, particularly traditional blues and folk, as well as gospel, country and early rock 'n' roll. He's learned well from old recordings and finds more than credible, individual takes on these venerable songs."

On No Better Than This, Mellencamp seems to go even deeper into the roots of traditional American music but instead of old songs learned from Robert Johnson and Woody Guthrie records, the songs are Mellencamp's own, written in traditional styles and recorded, as they might have been 50, 60 or 70 years ago in front of a single microphone, in mono, into a vintage tape recorder.

OK, I know that a tape recorder wouldn't have been used 60 or 70 years ago, but it would have been 50 years ago when guys like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and so many others were recording in the same Sun Studio in Memphis where nine of these 13 songs were recorded. An historic recording location, to be sure.

Mellencamp and producer T-Bone Burnett took advantage of the studio floor markings that Sun producer Sam Phillips set down in the 1950s for optimal studio sound in recording Mellencamp on vocals and acoustic guitar with his live-off-the-floor band of Burnett, Andy York and Marc Ribot on guitars, bassist David Roe, drummer Jay Bellerose and violinist Miriam Sturm. There were no overdubs - what they played is what we hear.

Among the highlights of the Sun session songs are "The West End," a gritty blues sung from the P.O.V. of someone who grew up in a lousy neighbourhood and is determined to get out; the title track, a rockabilly number whose swagger is a blend of young Elvis and young Johnny Cash; "Coming Down the Road," a hopeful Guthrie-esque anthem; and "Easter Eve," a vivid folk-like ballad of a violent encounter that seems modelled on the traditional "Arthur McBride."

The rest of the tracks were recorded locations that were no less historic.

"Right Behind Me," a duo track featuring Mellencamp with Sturm's intense bowing on the violin, was recorded in Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, the same room in which Robert Johnson recorded his first sides in 1936. Legend has it that Johnson sang facing the corner of the room and Mellencamp adopted the same position for a song that rambles through Johnsonian references to women, Chicago, and the devil.

Three solo folk-oriented love songs were recorded in the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia, a church that was a stop on the Underground Railroad in the years preceding the American Civil War. They include "Thinking About You," a nostalgic reminiscence of a long-ago love that could be a companion to Tom Waits' "Martha"; "Love At First Sight," kind of a puppy-love tune for more mature folks; and "Clumsy Old World," a song about love's contradictions written under the probable influence of John Prine.

There may be one or two Mellencamp songs from over the years that are more memorable than these, but, to my mind, there is no better John Mellencamp album than this

Posted by Linda Fahey at 9:06 AM

NPR and Folk Alley present an Exclusive First Listen of Justin Townes Earle's new CD 'Harlem River Blues'

September 1, 2010

JTE2010_Joshua_Black_Wilkins.jpgHarlem River Blues will stream here in its entirety until its release on September 14........ Click Here to Listen!

by Elena See, ~

For a guy who grew up in a sort of musical royal family -- he's the son of Steve Earle, and was named for Townes Van Zandt -- it's surprising that Justin Townes Earle has only been making music publicly for a little more than two years. He made his debut in 2008 and quickly followed that recording last year with the much-acclaimed Midnight at the Movies; on Sept. 14, he'll release his third album, Harlem River Blues.

What's especially noteworthy about the new recording -- besides Earle's simple, heartfelt lyrics and his ability to change from swinging gospel to old-time railroad ballads to twangy country -- is that even though he's been on the road constantly since 2008, the album doesn't sound rushed or tired. In fact, it's exactly the opposite.

Justin Townes Earle Harlem River Blues chat.jpgThe music Earle creates on Harlem River Blues is fresh and appealing in an old-fashioned kind of way. Listen to "Move Over Mama" -- you know you've heard it before, but it sounds different somehow. The ability to explore familiar styles and sounds while not just imitating them is Earle's gift.

The album offers an impressive variety of styles. While the title track sounds like gospel music that's been kicked in the backside by Elvis, Earle follows it with what might initially seem like the standard "I've lost my love and I'm sad" kind of ballad. But it's really a metaphoric slap in the face -- a call to stop wasting time with those who aren't willing to give us what we want or need.

He changes things yet again with some Johnny Cash-esque sounds and a nod to his hero, Woody Guthrie, as the album progresses. ("Workin' for the MTA" is a modern-day railroad story that would make Guthrie proud.) Throw in some solo piano and a ballad that sounds as if Bruce Springsteen might have written it in the late 1980s ("Rogers Park"), some virtuoso harmonica playing and a 30-second reprise of the title track that hints at a different path he might have taken with this new album, and you've got Harlem River Blues -- proof that Justin Townes Earle will be around, making relevant and interesting music, for a long time to come.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 2:20 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