Sara Hickman, Les Copeland, and Tribute to a Reggae Legend

In today’s Red Deer Advocate Roots Music column, I advance the coming shows and review three very different (from each other, I mean) recent releases from Les Copeland, Putumayo, and Sara Hickman. As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee and I hope you find something of interest. Best, Donald

Roots Music Column, originally published September 3, 2010 in the Red Deer Advocate

This week I’m going to try to catch up on summer releases that may be of interest to fans of roots music:

Les Copeland Don’t Let the Devil In (Earwig) With minimal accompaniment, Western Canadian bluesman Les Copeland has crafted an engaging and memorable collection of original music. He is an accomplished but not polished vocalist and his guitar playing- including bottleneck touches- is impressive. A deft touch with finger-picking blues allows him to explore the music of the rural south as ably as he does more sophisticated styles. Some of his songs could predate Charlie Patton, while others are of today. With a generous 15 numbers, listeners have much to absorb. Brings to mind Jim Byrnes’ recent appearance at the Central Music Festival.

Various Artists- Tribute to a Reggae Legend (Putumayo) While I usually want my reggae to have a bit more bite, this smooth assemblage of mostly recent cuts is of interest. While several of the compiled tunes are straight forward renditions of Bob Marley classics, others have a twist. Hawaii is represented by Three Plus performing a rich interpretation of “Is This Love”; also from Hawaii, Robi Kahakalau’s “Do It Twice” has more of a pop-jazz feel. Montreal’s Caracol contributes “Could You Be Loved”, one of several tracks especially recorded for this set, while Julie Crochetière’s “Mellow Mood” is breathtaking. Blues, folk, and bossa nova influence other selections, providing an intriguing, multi-dimensional listening experience.

Sara Hickman- Absence of Blame Having recorded in Texas for more than twenty years, Sara Hickman is a celebrated writer and singer; most recently, she was named the Official State Musician of Texas for 2010. Having flirted with the mainstream, Hickman is every inch the independent artist.

Her new album is one that becomes more appealing with each exposure. Folky, a little bit country, and frequently straight-up rock & roll, Hickman’s music has inspirational substance that is balanced by the lightness of her presentation and the power of her voice; another reviewer compared her to Christine Lavin, a connection I had intended to make until, well…I guess I just did. For me though, Hickman is a more universal talent- she has the poignancy of Lavin and, like Cheryl Wheeler, bridges the clever observance- durable song divide effectively. After a festival summer listening to many wannabes, Absence of Blame is a refreshing testament of what is possible within the folk roots world.

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