Archive for the ‘folk music’ Tag

Dave Richardson- Carry Me Along review   Leave a comment


Dave Richardson Carry Me Along

Dave Richardson is a relatively fresh voice on the North American folk scene, and with just a bit of justice and good fortune could also soon be a familiar voice.

From Vermont, Richardson possesses a strong voice and favours clean annunciation and guitar playing. His writing is similarly straight-forward, eschewing abstract word placement in favour of personable phrasing and descriptive language that captures mood, place, and character much like an effective short story author might. Carry Me Along, his third album (I believe), is most pleasing.

The album opens with a creative paean to an artifact discovered during a trip to the Smithsonian Institute; “Squid” may be the first folk song devoted to a giant cephalopod, and Richardson sings of the mysterious sea beastie with the honesty of an earnest lover. After this yearnsome tune, the aggressive independence of “Bachelor’s Hall”—the Appalachian variant owing more to Jean Ritchie than either Steeleye Span or Martin Simpson—reveals a darker view of courting: the truth seems to be—oceanic or interpersonal—relationships may not be worth the effort.

Similar introversion and introspection are found throughout this album. Featuring a dozen cuts, Carry Me Along is 2/3 original material with a handful of familiar melodies and traditional songs providing evidence of the influence the ballad tradition has had on this emerging and certainly talented artist. Bolstered by several different female vocalists—Liv Baxter, Emily Mure, and Mali Obomsawin, who also provides most of the bass—Richardson encompasses a variety of perspectives in his songs.

Richardson’s voice is quite perfect, neither artfully brooding or overly spry. Singing of companionable “Front Porch Time,” pastoral moments observing the “Rise and Play” of a fox, and astringent recrimination while “Driving So Far,” Richardson’s authenticity is resplendent with sincerity and texture: no one and no situation is one-dimensional. Child Ballad 78—”The Unquiet Grave”—perhaps provides the foundation for Richardson’s approach to folk music: a classic folk song provided a tad of personal inspiration without detracting from that which survived centuries.

Richardson rescues The McGarrigle’s barroom angel “Annie” (written by long-time collaborator Chaim Tannenbaum) from obscurity, late in the set pairing this ’74 out-take with the more idyllic, hopeful, and guitar-rich “Goodbye Baltimore.” Richardson also delivers a masterfully rendered interpretation of the  devastating murder ballad “Polly’s Ghost,” known variously elsewhere as “Love and Murder,” “The Cruel Ship’s Carpenter,” “Polly’s Love,” and “The Ghost Song”: one gets the drift.

Modern folk, true folk—that is music rooted in the tradition and performed within a traditional configuration—is increasingly rarely encountered. All the more reason to celebrate the music of Dave Richardson and his little masterpiece, Carry Me Along. One for the year-end list, I’m predicting.


Posted 2018 March 11 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Kim Beggs- Said Little Sparrow review   1 comment


Kim Beggs Said Little Sparrow

Kim Beggs, perhaps Whitehorse’s strongest contribution to the contemporary Canadian folk circuit, has a voice and an outlook like no one else, and she reveals her path of experience at every turn.

That voice. Beggs has a timbre that is folksy, earthy, and woodsy all at once—natural-sounding, of course, but more than that: her voice is as her other gifts, quite simply pure. This comes through on each song of Said Little Sparrow, whether one notes the way she twists the end of lines—”Every second of every hour, planting and picking the prettiest flowers…”—or plainly reveals her heart in the most genuine of manner on “Hurts the Worst” and “Blister.”

The outlook. Listening to Said Little Sparrow, as one did with the previous Blue Bones and Beauty and Breaking, is to know Kim, her family—the Wooded Mix—and her extended circle of compatriots. Their stories are expanded upon within the honestly written notes and personal essays contained in this generously packaged release, but most assuredly are woven into the deeply personal songs. A child assisting her Gran in updating an address book (“They’re all dead and gone, she said, my little one”), common neighbourliness in a frozen community, or a beau presenting his beloved with a freshly dug outhouse hole: these are vignettes into which Beggs invites her listener.

As all great folksingers do, Beggs moves from the personal to the universal with ease. She connects British Columbia’s northern Highway of Tears and its innumerable victims with Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” and in doing so touches on her personal connection to the many women who took a final and fateful journey on Highway 16. A forest landscape is referenced when considering ones origin(s) and the meaning of family. In one song, teenaged adventure is viewed through the mirror of time passages, and in another the wise looks toward a future free of the remembered burdens of the past.

Beggs’ songwriting has never been more profound, simultaneously substantial and delicate. Producing herself this time out, she continues to surround herself with the finest of the Canadian roots community including folks like David Baxter (guitars) , Michelle Josef (drums), Brian Kobayakawa (bass, including atmospheric bow-work on the memorable lead track, “Vampire Love Song”), and Oh Susanna (vocals) further sweetened by selective touches of mandolin, banjo, fiddle, and organ.

Another beautiful creation from Kim Beggs. No shortcuts taken in this journey.


Otis Gibbs- Mount Renraw review   2 comments

The first song of Otis Gibbs’ I heard was “Everyday People,” the song that starts, “Grandpa walked a picket line when he was nineteen, had a wife and kids back at home to feed. Daddy did the same it was his turn to, made things better for me and you.” With those four lines, he captured me. That’s how it goes sometimes. Guy Clark did it just as quickly for me. So did Joy Lynn White, Bruce Springsteen, Melody Walker, Marty Stuart, and-more recently-Danko Jones. As I have those artists-and a hundred and sixty seven others-I’ve slowly amassed all the available recordings, and have eagerly anticipated new music since that initial moment of illumination. Like them, Otis has a way about him-one that reveals itself quickly, but which depths take years to explore.

OtisOtis Gibbs is damn good. If you haven’t heard him, change that. Now. Mount Renraw is as good an album as he’s released, and there are a bunch of them. My review was published over at Country Standard Time, and somehow I missed cross-linking it here. So, that’s one thing fixed around the house today. Can’t find my drill or bits, so the laundry room closet door is going to have to wait a bit longer.

Spend a bit of time at to watch videos of “Sputnik Monroe” and “Great American Roadside.”

Reviews recently posted elsewhere   Leave a comment

I was asked to contribute some reviews to Lonesome Road Review recently. I am likely writing a little less for LLR and Country Standard Time than I had in the past, but I do find time to get a couple or three done monthly. These days, there is little to no money in freelance writing on the level I do it-back in the early to mid-aughts I had a steady little stream of revenue coming from various publications, but that has pretty much dried up. Fortunately for me, I have a true career to pay the bills, and I am able to leave paying jobs to those who actually are writing for a living…and who are usually a bit better at it than I am.


Anyhow, two new reviews have been posted. The Special Consensus is one of my favourite bluegrass bands going back almost twenty years, and their most recent Compass Records release Long I Ride is another really strong recording. Last year Darrell Scott released 10: Songs of Ben Bullington, a masterful recording that I’ve been listening to monthly if not weekly since it came out. We don’t usually review albums so long after release, but Aaron sent it to me and therefore I did; I hope I did the album justice. I also failed to link in my review of Scott’s latest, Couchville Sessions. Sigh. Here it is. Or, if I did, the search tool isn’t finding it.


In cleaning up Fervor Coulee at year end, I can’t find my review of Josh Williams’ Modern Day Man cross-posted. Country Standard Time had me write about it on release, so if you missed it, there it is.


And finally, I hope- my review of Dori Freeman’s debut was posted at Lonesome Road Review, but I neglected to link it here. I’m not very good at this, am I?

Anyhow, all these albums are worth your consideration, no matter when you locate the reviews. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

Red Tail Ring- Fall Away Blues review   1 comment


Red Tail Ring Fall Away Blues

It was a wonderful summer of beautiful music. So much to hear, and I’m certain it wasn’t only my experience that there was an abundance of quality.

Blue Highway’s Original Traditional and Kristin Scott Benson’s Stringworks. Anna Egge & the Sentimentals’ Say That Now. Terrific blues albums from Duke Robillard and Ronnie Earl. Blue Moon Marquee’s unconventional Gypsy Blues. Bryan Sutton’s outstanding The More I Hear, The Earls of Leicester’s Rattle & Roar, and Sam Bush’s Storyman. Unbridled folk from Vincent Cross and Craig Morgan, and BD Harrington’s game changing The Diver’s Curse. Maria Dunn’s epic Gathering. Then there was the music I didn’t write about, but still enjoyed and found something within—Karl Blau, Chip Taylor, Kieran Kane, and Chelle Rose. Hell, The Monkees put out maybe the best album of the summer, dammit: I will not listen to contrary arguments on that.

Roots music isn’t a competition, of course—except on awards night, then all bets are off—but the album I have listened to more often than any other these past few months? Red Tail Ring’s Fall Away Blues.

I’m not sure why other than it just connected with me. I don’t have a previous relationship with the group, and had never heard of them before the disc appeared in my mailbox. I am more than a bit ‘over’ male-female pairings performing laments inspired by too many listenings of Time (The Relevator) and the Harry Smith box set. I have more than enough clawhammer banjo sets of folk and mountain tunes on my shelves. And, you may already know how I feel about ‘evocative’ duo monikers that go beyond birth names.

How did this relatively unheralded set have such a significant impact on me that it took about two months to (barely) uncover the words to attempt a review?

It is danged freakin’ good.untitled

This Michigan duo of Laurel Premo and Michael Beauchamp is incredible. They have the very rare ability to inhabit songs, removing the barrier of time, place, and reality between their performance of ancient tunes “Yarrow” and “Come All Ye Fair & Tender Ladies, their own timely compositions, the recorded medium, and the audience. Billy Bragg and Joe Henry do similarly on their recent Shine A Light, albeit without the original songs: you are transported into the recording, watching the pair lean into their songs as they maintain eye contact to communicate chords and progressions.

Premo’s “The New Homeplace” bridges the passion, energy, and fear of new experiences, and evokes the sounds of generations. The duo bravely examines their still fresh Kalamazoo hometown murders in “Gibson Town,” utilizing a blues foundation to attempt comprehension of the inexplicable: like many folk songs, details are left in the shadows with emotion on full display. Beauchamp’s “A Ghost Whispers” evokes the mystery of inspiration within a poetic assemblage of images and notes. His “For the Love of the City” is more linear, but no less stirring.

Throughout Fall Away Blues, Red Tail Ring elevate their music from the past. As troubadours must, Premo and Beauchamp confront that which challenges them. They face the environmental and social impacts of “Shale Town.” The past and perhaps self are left behind as memory in “Visiting,” a song that makes me think of Hazel Dickens and her journey from rural poverty to urban factory hope: “I never find you when I go home, I remember you there, but now I’m alone.”

Within the album’s monumental title track, Premo lays out the heart of every roots musician worthy of the name: “If I should lose most everything, I tell you what I would do; I’d pull some bow across the string…If you broke that fiddle bow, I tell you what I would do: I’d start singing another tune…”

And so it goes.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. I hope your time has been well spent. Buy some roots music—if you think it is worth listening to, it had better be worth buying! Donald


Posted 2016 October 2 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Trevor Alguire- Perish in the Light review   Leave a comment

album-cover-2Trevor Alguire Perish in the Light

For those who have been paying attention, and I have admittedly not paid enough, Trevor Alguire has carved out a little niche for himself on the Canadian singer-songwriter circuit. His song “Thirty Year Run” was a realistic portrayal of life, all the more impressive for its wisdom beyond years, “I’m Going Crazy (Out of Your Mind)” was a country hit waiting for radio, and “Cold Words” plumbed emotional depths as starkly as John Hiatt often does.

On Perish in the Light Alguire again looks into the darkness of relationships and the vitality of lives, exploring the inner-most thoughts of folks brave enough to ponder their circumstance. There is an echo of Billy Bragg in his voice (“The Ghost of Him,” “I’ll Be Who I Am,”) which is really strange as I also hear Corb Lund coming through in places (“Long Way Home,” “Flash Flood.”)

The cinematic “My Sweet Rosetta” sketches an everlasting love, and features the strong vocal presence of Catherine MacLellan and the wonderfully poetic image of “my bullet-proof sweater.” Like Mark Erelli, Alguire sketches life’s complexities of turmoil and wonder in just a few lines, coalescing a lifetime of challenge, doubt, and absurdity into a relatable couplet.

“I’d rather hold her memory tight than waste my days with you,” from “Out of Sight Out of Mind” doesn’t even require a second line to nail things down, placing punctuation on enduring love. Man, that is one excellent song. “Wasting My Time With You” explores the opposite, cutting a relationship to the quick. “Long Way Home” is a song of promise and assurance. “If I Had Stayed in School” is a songwriter’s manifesto.

Production choices deserve mention as instruments are placed to the front of the mix, emphasizing the collaborative nature of the recording. Beautifully balanced, Alguire’s vocals rise through and above in these brilliant little songs; give a listen to the first minute of “My Sweet Rosetta” to hear an audio visionary to full effect. Bob Egan contributes pedal steel with Miranda Mulholland’s fiddle serving as additional connection to the country sound.

Perish in the Light is a great album, one I will be nominating for the Polaris Prize. It won’t win, but it deserves a conversation.

Always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Support your local roots musicians.


Maria Dunn- Gathering review   2 comments


Maria Dunn Gathering Distant Whisper Music

One of Alberta’s foremost folk musicians—I believe only John Wort Hannam is her equal—returns with her sixth collection of lyrically-rich gems. An artist who places her convictions and heart on display in complementary proportions, Dunn has found balance between sharing the inspirational and compelling within songs that are insightful, artfully constructed, and just plain enjoyable.

There will always be more than a bit of the Celtic lands in Dunn’s music, and throughout Gathering African, Asian, and Canadian First Nations influences can also be heard. An overarching theme of community connection is woven into each number, ably achieved through Dunn’s soulful lyrics and the contributions of collaborators including long-time partners Shannon Johnson, Jeremiah McDade, and Solon McDade. As always, one comes away from this Dunn recording knowing more about the world than one was previously aware.

Like the finest troubadours, Dunn communicates: she is the vessel through which others exist. She reveals the innermost, personal, and captivatingly universal perspectives and insights of devoted parents, the down-trodden challenged by circumstance, those connected to the land by more than choice, and the youthful who rise above.

Beautiful stuff Gathering is, certainly one of the finest recordings to be released this year. Those who compare Maria Dunn to Woody Guthrie, Hazel Dickens, Jean Ritchie, and Buffy Sainte-Marie aren’t taking the easy way out: with the release of Gathering she demonstrates that she is an international folk artist of significance.

Video of “When I Was Young” from Gathering. Several other videos from other projects, too.