Archive for the ‘folk music’ Tag
I’m not sure how the album made its way to me, but I am certainly glad that it did. Cahalen Morrison and Eli West’s release of last autumn Our Lady of the Tall Trees is terrific. I’ve posted my review of the album at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass. If you are open to acoustiblue music- stuff that in some ways reminds you of bluegrass but most obviously isn’t, you will want to consider locating this beautifully packaged set. Their website is www.CahalenandEli.com.
This video gives you a taste of what they are all about. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Pete Seeger Pete Remembers Woody
Pete Seeger and Lorre Wyatt A More Perfect Union
both Appleseed Recordings
Even today, Pete Seeger records more albums of higher quality than many musicians a fraction of his 93 years. This autumn, Appleseed came out with two additional collections of Seeger material to complement their previous Seeger-focused tribute albums and Seeger’s own Grammy-winning set of a few years ago, At 89.
Pete Remembers Woody is simply amazing. For those of us who find ourselves under the spell of Seeger, there are few things more enjoyable than listening to the troubadour sharing his tales; in this instance, all are focused around Woody Guthrie. As the liner notes state, it would have made sense to record a collection of Guthrie songs recorded by others with the occasional anecdote from Seeger. Fortunately, project coordinator David Bernz realized the treasure he had in hand and opted for a set featuring “Pete Seeger telling us about Woody Guthrie, punctuated by music.”
What we are gifted here then is two hours of Seeger yarns accented by music from Bernz, Pete and Arlo Guthrie, Cathy Fink and Marnie Marxer, Work o’ the Weavers, and others. Mostly though, we have Seeger educating about Woody Guthrie- mentor, friend, enigma- through story. It would be a disservice to Seeger to tell his remembrances here because half the charm is in the delivery, the voice that is instantly recognizable. The parallels of history to modern politics, the flip-flops more specifically, are readily apparent. The elements of social justice, viewed now as then by many as a threat to the social fabric, are provided a historical context that appears both quaint- because, in hindsight, they don’t appear that radical- and scary: imagine a time with the merest hint of one’s beliefs could label one as a threat to the country. Seeger’s memory of his times with Guthrie appear clear and the stories roll off his tongue with both charm and vinegar.
The musical interludes that bridge the various experiences are spot-on. Work o’ the Weavers bring the folk sound of the fifties and early-sixties alive. Cathy Fink’s banjo is always welcome. David Bernz’s “Woody’s Ghost” is a three-part composition that captures the album’s over-arching spirit admirably. Guthrie is heard a couple times, once with Cisco Houston performing “New York Town” and with the Almanac Singers on “The Sinking of the Reuben James.” Seeger breaks into song throughout, providing his stories with additional colour.
Pete Remembers Woody is more than a recording documenting one man’s memories of a legend. It is a historical perspective on a movement that altered the course of the American story- and, more importantly for some of us, the American musical journey. Stunning stuff, this.
The second volume is A More Perfect Union which Seeger recorded with his long-time friend Lorre Wyatt. Several guests- most notably Bruce Springsteen, Dar Williams, Tom Morello, Steve Earle, and Emmylou Harris- add their voices to this collaborative recording.
Springsteen appears on the lead track, taking a couple leads throughout the sing-a-long “God’s Counting on Me…God’s Counting on You.” His phrasing when singing “It’s time to turn things around, trickle up, not trickle down” is impactful considering what he has done over the years to support many labour and social causes. One can be cynical of multi-millionaires singing for social change, but one needn’t be when the cause is true and heartfelt.
The album may be overwhelming to those not used to listening to music of conscience. The principles of social justice is woven into each note of each song: take it or leave it.
Wyatt’s signature song “Somos el Barco/We Are the Boat” is performed here with the songwriter joined by Seeger and Emmylou Harris along with a large choir of voices. “Howling for Our Supper” winks at the self-indulgent nature of songwriters while the following track, “My Neighbor’s Needs” is- like several of the songs- a call to action. Listening to “This Old Man Revisited,” one realizes that Steve Earle has based his cadence on the childhood staple more than once, and I don’t mean that in the smart ass way it sounds. Dar Williams joins in on “This Old Man Revisited” and does an even more impressive job on the Hurricane Katrina opus “Memories Out of Mud.”
Included on A More Perfect Union are fourteen newly written tracks from Seeger and Lorre. This freshness is palatable as each song seemingly reinvigorates the duo. There are those who will run from any collection of Seeger music, put off either by ones interpretation of his politics or by his voice, but those folks are missing something special. Like few others, Pete Seeger is a folk essential. And even as he slows down on his performance commitments, there is no shaking his commitment to the power of folk music.
While the guest vocalists will get more than their fair share of mentions- including here- it is Seeger and Wyatt who deserve the glory. Whether partnering with songwriters and singers who share their vision, or simply singing their songs together, the pair carry the album for more than an hour. They crack wise on “Old Apples” and reveal wisdom elsewhere, as in “A Toast to the Times,” the stark “These Days in Zimbabwe,” and “Bountiful River.” If he never records another song, Seeger’s “Somebody Else’s Eye” will stand as sentinel of his power as a writer and his prowess as a vocalist. As she does within “Bountiful River,” Sara Milonovich contributes violin accompaniment that is more than impressive.
A More Perfect Union, a recording fraught with challenge and perseverance as detailed in David Bernz’s notes, is a folk delight.
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee; I hope you find writing and comment of interest and value. Donald
Over at Lonesome Road Review, Aaron has posted my review of the quite terrific collection inspired by some of the music referenced in the Little House books. The link will get you there: http://lonesomeroadreview.com/2012/10/22/pas-fiddle-charles-ingalls-american-fiddler-by-various-artists/
Worth checking out, in my opinion. As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Alberta’s Arts Days, while a bit of a fabrication on the part of the government, has its benefits including a performance this Saturday evening by Alberta’s answer to Guy Clark, John Wort Hannam. John is playing in Leduc, and I plan on driving up to the McLab Theatre housed within the high school from which I graduated. Hmm, just occured to me: the first band I attempted to write about- and whose lead singer was the first I interviewed- were Edmonton’s The Models, and the gig and interview occured at Leduc Composite. Thirty-three years later…
Information about the gig and John Wort Hannam, who has a new album coming out October 2 (his first for Borealis) available at http://www.johnworthannam.com/John_Wort_Hannam_Website/HOME.html If he has copies for sale in Leduc, I’ll be purchasing one and will let you know what I think. I’m anticipating that it will be as good as Maria Dunn’s recently released Piece by Piece.
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Sorry for the delay on this one…thought it had been posted.
Robin & Linda Williams These Old Dark Hills Red House Records Reviewed by Donald Teplyske
Robin & Linda Williams have been creating folk-based, country-leaning music for parts of five decades, and as the long-married duo approach their 40th anniversary of recording in 2015 they just keep getting stronger.
There is nothing overly complicated about what the Williamses do. They tend to write and select relevant, heartfelt songs of relationships focusing on the places almost as much as the people (despite the protagonist’s claim to the contrary, “They All Faded Away” serves as a prime example, balancing memories of rolling hills, gently flowing water, and ramshackle towns with the recollection of a long-abandoned love). Their harmony-centric and acoustic approaches to music making ensures that the voices and the lyrics- the stories, characters, and settings- always remain at the fore.
None of which should be taken to imply that what they create is simplistic. There is true skill and art involved in making meaningful music pure and straightforward. Taking a rather undistinguished, latter-day Bruce Springsteen composition (“My Lucky Day” to create something that sounds classic is no small feat.
As is their practice, Robin and Linda alternate taking the lead vocal position with the other slipping into seemingly effortless harmony. Utilizing the standard bluegrass instrumental norm- five musicians on any six instruments including Chris Brashear’s mandolin and fiddle, Todd Phillips on bass, and Al Perkins on various steel guitars, with Linda on guitar and banjo and Robin on guitar- a consistent and appealing foundation is established early.
Lonesome and the title track, both co-written by the Williamses, are destined to become standards within their extensive repertoire.
Looking at Lonesome as a “rotten town” of mental blueness- “If you get broke down in that barren ground, you will be forever bound to Lonesome,” Linda Williams maps a journey of formidable challenge.
More gentle are the images Robin Williams evokes as he settles his tired gaze on “faithful confidants of stone.” The untouched, ancient wilderness is brought to mind within this gentle, loping number, as are fond reminiscences of family.
Additional highlights are a version of Jessi Colter’s “Storms Never Last,” the bright “Tessie Mae,” and “Arizona.” The only misstep appears- and this may not be universally felt- as the album closes with “World Wide Peace,” a familiar but over-reaching song.
These Old Dark Hills stands with the best of Robin and Linda Williams’ recordings.
I was pleased to have Maria send me her new album this summer; it was actually the first album to arrive at the new house. I’ve been listening to it all summer. Gorgeous stuff, as always.
Maria Dunn Piece By Piece www.MariaDunn.com
Alongside John Wort Hannam, Maria Dunn is Alberta’s most highly regarded folk music artist of the singer-songwriter variety. Since 1998, she has released albums of tremendous depth. Her music, her words come from the hearts and souls of the lives she imagines. Using the English folk tradition as her foundation, Maria Dunn has most recently created a thoughtful and illuminating examination of the struggles of female garment workers; while focused upon the experiences of those at the Edmonton GWG factory through the 1900s, the songs are universal.
As she did with We Are Good People, in which she looked at the early labour movement and history of Alberta and western Canada, for Piece By Piece Dunn has immersed herself within her subject matter to find inspiration. Through interviews with the women who worked in the factory (which closed in 2004 after 93 years) as well as examination of archival footage and documentation, Dunn has captured the lives, the hardship and the pride, of women who completed ‘piece work’ for the jeans and work wear company, both before and after Levi Strauss bought the works.
Dunn’s ability to connect the reminiscent memories and phrases of the interviewed women who worked in the factory into a cohesive narrative is nothing short of impressive. As within We Were Good People, Dunn has illuminated the continuing history of Alberta, informing us of a story we didn’t know to appreciate.
On her fifth album of original material, Dunn ties the hardships faced by the factory workers- often the family’s only breadwinner in difficult times, as often an example of the sacrifice made by the newly arrived as they built a life in Canada- to the dignity they achieved for themselves in performing labour that many other Alberta workers would never have considered for themselves.
As specific as the connections are to the Edmonton GWG factory, the album has universal appeal. “I Cannot Tell You (The Whole Story)” may be the story of one Vietnamese woman coming to Canada to find a greater life than her homeland will allow, but the phrases and experiences captured mirror those who left eastern Europe for Canada a century before.
The album’s most affecting song captures Dunn’s interpretation of the words and thoughts of Lillian Wasylynchuk, a worker who died of lung disease. “Blue Lung” looks at the health concerns of the women working within an environment filled with the blue dust from the jeans material, and makes a comparison to the fate of mine workers. “Speed Up” is a snappy song that shares the spirit of “Sixteen Tons,” another connection to other labourers.
Dunn’s voice is beautiful, and quite indescribable- I’ve been attempting to do so for a decade and always fail. Joining Dunn is long-time collaborator and producer Shannon Johnson, she of clan McDade. Johnson’s fiddling adds atmosphere and verve to the songs, never more apparent than on “Shareholder’s Reel.” Sharmila Mathur providers sitar and this colours the songs in a lovely manner, providing connection to those who came from Asia to work in Alberta.
The songs of Piece By Piece work both as a cohesive portrait of shared experience and as stand-alone slices of contemporary folk art.
The dreams of immigrants, the impact of World War II, passionate labour negotiations, lullabies sung after days of toil, and the associated challenges fill each of Dunn’s songs. As richly, they are populated by the realities of strong women. In sharing the stories and insights of these women- some of whom traveled from rural areas to find work in the city, others immigrants from Italy, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Vietnam, China, Pakistan, and elsewhere- Dunn has created a memorable and dynamic collection of songs that will undoubtedly extend her renown as Alberta’s finest folk singer and writer.
I spotted copies of Piece By Piece at Edmonton’s Blackbyrd Myoozik this weekend, but I don’t see it at iTunes yet. Just as well- the packaging is quite nice and adds to the listening experience. Buy the hard copy.
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Sam Baker, Carrie Elkin & Danny Schmidt To Perform Trio Shows In Alberta
Regular visitors to Fervor Coulee will know of my appreciation for the music of all three of these individuals. I’ve written about Sam here http://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2010/02/15/gurf-morlix-sam-baker-february-14-2010/ and elsewhere, and about Carrie and Danny here http://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/danny-schmidt-carrie-elkin-reviews/. As none of the following locations are within three hours of me, I won’t be able to attend, but sure would like to- well worth investigating if you are anywhere closeby. See below- thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.
(All info courtesy of Martyn, www.GoToAGig.com )
Tour Dates ***Links to tickets & information for ALL dates at: www.gotoagig.com***
July 30 Nanton AB – The Auditorium Hotel
July 31 Medicine Hat AB – Ye Olde Jar Bar House Concert
August 1 Lloydminster SK – the root: community emporium
August 2 Elk Point AB – Mona’s Place House Concert
Carrie and Danny are also at the Canmore Folk Music Festival, and all three are at the Calgary Fest.
Austin’s Sam Baker was recently in Alberta & BC for several small-venue dates and festivals. After heading back Stateside to perform at the 15th Annual “Woodyfest” in Okemah, Oklahoma Sam returns to Alberta to participate in the Calgary Folk Festival (July 26-29) & their Songwriter Bootcamp.
Fellow Austinites, singer-songwriters Carrie Elkin & Danny Schmidt are also at the Calgary Folk Festival, so it just makes sense to get these three friends together for a few smaller shows. They will perform FOUR DATES ONLY before Carrie & Danny head off to play at the Canmore Folk Festival (August 4-6) and Sam heads home to dedicate some more time to his next release.
Carrie recorded her latest CD “Call It My Garden” in Sam’s living room. The disc includes “Dear Sam”, a song written especially for her friend.
Carrie & Danny are partners in life as well as music. They have both had their separate careers for many years, recently becoming labelmates on the renowned Minnesota based roots label Red House Records. The label has just released a 2-track digital EP as the duo’s very first true collaboration. It’s now available at: http://itunes.apple.com/us/preorder/together-single/id542435232
Sam, Carrie & Danny take every opportunity that comes along to perform together, and those opportunities don’t happen too often, so GoToAGig is especially proud to present these shows for the pleasure of the lucky folks who will get to attend them.
Tune in to “Wide Cut Country” on CKUA to hear all three of these performers LIVE from The Calgary Folk Music Festival.
Find out more and enjoy a preview of what you’ll see & hear when these three friends perform.
Sam Baker Website: www.sambakermusic.com Carrie Elkin Website: www.carrieelkin.com Danny Schmidt Website: www.dannyschmidt.com
Carrie Elkin “Jesse Likes Birds”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_YYmjLQAa4 Carrie Elkin proves she doesn’t really need a mic on “Amazing Grace”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clo5Txg1utc&feature=related Danny Schmidt “Swing Me Home”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAV61XZ1erg Danny Schmidt “Dark Eyed Prince”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tyEpCDTQUA Carrie & Danny performing “Company Of Friends” together: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boqQxwiUT2A Sam Baker “Pony”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxBb5kFK3Mo W / Radoslav Lorkovic (accordion) and Tim Lorsch (mandolin) Sam Baker “Mennonite”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-c_nI5GT5E&feature=relmfu W / Tim Lorsch (mandolin)
Gordie Tentrees North Country Heart www.tentrees.ca
Writing about his Yukon surroundings- the natural land as well as the people- has taken Gordie Tentrees to the next level.
Firmly entrenched in the same singer-songwriter mode as Corb Lund- especially on the talking blues of “Sideman Blues” and “Hill Country News”- Tentrees’s forthcoming album North Country Heart is his strongest yet. And that is a fairly high bar as his previous efforts Mercy or Sin and Bottleneck to Wire were fairly marvelous.
Recorded in Whitehorse with Bob Hamilton, start to finish North Country Heart is likely the finest collection of songs that Tentrees has recorded. While individual lyrical pieces capture the attention of listeners (“Blessed and bestowed bitten from the start, there’s nothing out there like a North Country heart” and “This is not another tune for you, wrote enough of them to see me through” from “Last Word”), the melodies capture the moods as accurately as his words.
On “Lone Sparrow,” the melody holds the lyrics close. The instrumentation- including lonesome pedal steel- punctuates the melancholy. The sagely worded “Black Seeds” is another standout track, as is the album’s lead number “Gypsy Wind.”
Tentrees has created a cohesive collection of images and sounds that hits emotional marks without resorting to manipulation. Heard without advance warning, one could be convinced that this is the new Corb Lund or Hayes Carll album and not be a bit disappointed. Tentrees has learned from the best: Fred Eaglesmith, John Wort Hannam, Ray Wylie Hubbard.
North Country Heart is evidence that he hasn’t just learned the tricks of the trade: Tentrees has become a stellar songwriter and roots vocalist.
West of Eden Safe Crossing Self-released
With this writing gig, one is never sure what will arrive on the desk. How about this? An album of shipwreck-inspired songs recorded on the Cornish coast by a folk-based, Celtic-rock band from Sweden?
From Gothenburg, Sweden, West of Eden has been releasing albums since 1997, but Safe Crossing served as my introduction to the band. Fronted by the songwriting and lead-vocal team of Martin and Jenny Schaub, the sextet features lots of fiddle, percussion, guitars, and other stringed instruments. The music is fabulous, very inspiring and interesting. Like an album from The Chieftains, the instrumentation is outstanding, and there are elements of Wolfestone, Solas, and especially Boiled in Lead flavouring this mix.
What sets West of Eden apart is the magic of the Straub’s voices. Everyone in the band sings, but the lead vocals bring these vivid stories of doomed ships and their crews to life. All are destined to crash on the rocks of the Scilly Isles, but the story of each journey, of each life chronicled through the band’s imagination, is the true attraction.
True Celtic soul. From Sweden!
This has me excited. If I were to attend, which I likely won’t for several reasons, I would make sure that I tried to catch: Kim Beggs and T Nile, Blue Highway, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Johnny Clegg Band, Rose Cousins, Rodney Crowell, Steve Forbert, Arlo Guthrie and the Guthrie Family Reunion, Emmylou Harris, Hills to Hollars featuring Laurie Lewis, Linda Tillery, and Barbara Higbie, Martyn Joseph, Jimmy LaFave, Jim Lauderdale, David Lindley, Dougie MacLean, The Parachute Club, and J. R. Shore. Lots of country-based roots there, y’all.