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HEAR IT FIRST at Folk Alley: David Francey - 'So Say We All'

April 30, 2013

David Francey So Say We All 200x200.jpg

by Kim Ruehl,

On his tenth album in 14 years, So Say We All, David Francey delivers a rousing collection of traditional-sounding story-songs. From the ever-falling rain in the opening tune to the shooting stars in the title track (which closes the album), this disc spins a web of melodies that shows easy connections between hard work and rest, joy and sorrow, loss and ultimate hope.

As he has been doing for more than a decade, Francey captures all of life's nuances in a way which is both eloquent and accessible. "Long Long Road," for example, sounds like it could be a Scottish drinking song about keeping faith no matter what comes. It's hard to resist the urge to raise a glass and join in singing, "The waves of the water, they endlessly break on the long, long road."

DavidFrancey PR 200.jpgFrancey knows the long road well. He took it toward a songwriting career, not casting his line into those waters until he was 45 years old. Nonetheless, from his childhood in Scotland to his working days in Toronto, he has brought with him a keen ear for melody. His songs are so honest and real, you'd think folks had been singing them for generations. But, more likely, these tunes have been hanging in the air all this time, waiting for David Francey.

It's not just the impeccable songwriting which makes this disc an early favorite. Behind Francey comes an intuitive band of gifted pickers - Darren McMullen's mandolin, especially, brings light into even the toughest turns of these tales. As Francey sings, struggling out of a certain depression, in comes McMullen with a flutter of color, turning the songs into inklings of hope and promise.

Though it certainly delves into life's dark moments, So Say We All is ultimately a disc about finding something to hold onto. He sums this up well on "Weather Vane," where he sings, "Everybody leaves their mark, some profound and some profane...forget the wind that howls and turns the weather vane." Listen in and decide for yourself what kind of mark David Francey has left.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 12:54 PM

REVIEW: Anais Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer's 'Child Ballads'

April 1, 2013

Anais and Jefferson.jpgby Kim Ruehl, for

It's been about a century and a half since Francis James Child collected upwards of 300 English and Scottish folk ballads and compiled them into a book now known as, simply, the Child Ballads. Folksingers have been pulling from that collection ever since, most notably during the mid-20th Century folk revival, with forerunners of that movement - Fairport Convention, Joan Baez, Buffy Ste. Marie - making recordings which have cemented these songs in the hearts and minds of folkies for generations.

It's not easy to record a song which has been recorded so many times before, and to do so with the grace and creativity that makes the song worth listening to again, in its newly realized version. Especially when great artists like Martin Carthy, Nic Jones, and Baez have already touched the song(s) in question. Yet, a couple of young singer-songwriters from Brooklyn have nailed the spirit of the Child Ballads yet again with a seven-song EP out this month on Wilderland Records.

You probably know Anais Mitchell from her handful of solo albums (last year's Young Man in America topped the Folk Alley Best of 2012 countdown), if not from her folk-opera Hadestown, which she wrote by herself and then recorded with Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, Ani DiFranco, and Greg Brown. Jefferson Hamer started his career playing bluegrass music and topical folk songs before joining Great American Taxi for a spell, moving to Brooklyn, and forming a trad Irish group called the Murphy Beds with Eamon O'Leary. All these things considered, it makes perfect sense that these two artists - with their frequent straddling of the old and the new - should be well-poised to deliver a remarkable set of interpretations from Child's collection.

In the interest of keeping the songs fresh, they changed some musical phrases, updated the language here and there, and evolved the songs so they could be palatable to a contemporary audience. Aware of 21st Century music fans' short attention spans, they massaged the storylines of these richly nuanced and intellectually complex fairytales and stories of seafaring escapades, until they became wholly digestible and unintimidating. The result is a collection of hundreds-of-years-old songs which sound like they were dreamed up by Mitchell and Hamer themselves.

Posted by Linda Fahey at 11:00 AM | Comments (2)

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