Eric Brace and Karl Straub have created a most ambitious album based upon and extending “Sweet Betsy From Pike,” a song from the California Gold Rush era. Prior to listening to Hangtown Dancehall, I had only passing familiarity with “Sweet Betsy From Pike” having heard versions by Suzy Bogguss and Johnny Cash. Admittedly, I hadn’t paid attention to the song, and certainly hadn’t gleamed the potential the song held.
A well-written overview of the album is available at Engine 145. In short, Brace has created ‘the rest of the story,’ an imagining of what happened to Betsy and Ike after the dance. “El Dorado Two-Step” isn’t nearly my favourite song on this wonderful and cohesive album, but it is the one I can find a (functioning in Canada) link to, so…I guess it’ll do. It is one of a couple songs featuring Tim O’Brien and, as always, he delivers. This track also features Mike Auldridge, Buddy Spicher, and frequent Brace collaborator Peter Cooper, among others, but curiously not Straub. The entire album is fair brilliant, and its liner notes and packaging- featuring woodcuts from Julie Sola- is outstanding.
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