Archive for the ‘folk music’ Tag

Dulcie Taylor- Better Part of Me review   Leave a comment

Dulcie-Taylor-Better-Part-Of-Me-Cover-Square-1500x1500-F-1024x1024

Dulcie Taylor Better Part of Me Black Iris Records/DulcieTaylor.com

While California-based Dulcie Taylor’s music is new to this listener, the veteran singer-songwriter has numerous albums released over the past two decades. Taylor’s music reminds us of when we first heard Kimmie Rhodes, Shawn Colvin, and yes, even Lucinda Williams long ago. That Taylor isn’t the household name those artists are has nothing to do with the quality of her writing or singing.

“Watch Me Hurt” was the first song to grab my attention: the anguish of the lover being taken advantage of by a malicious heart is palatable. “I thank you for the lesson learned, people can be cruel—set you on fire just to watch you burn” she sings in the song’s final stanza, one replete with a refrain that reveals the casual infliction of cruelty—”I know you broke my heart on purpose, you needed to watch me hurt.”

Taylor doesn’t have too many songs of satisfaction and bliss on Better Part of Me, her seventh release (as best as I can tell). For some, the song titles tell part of the tale—”Long Gone,” “Hearts Have to Break” (a rustic, homey duet with producer and long-time collaborator George Naufel), and “The Moon Is Cold”—but Taylor’s songs go beyond the simple hook and cutting catch phrase, revealing the nuance and complexity of relationships.

To counterbalance the darkness, Taylor offers “I Do” (“You don’t ever have to wonder who has got your back—I promise you, I do”) and “God Did Me A Favor.” The lucidity of her voice is striking throughout the album, perhaps no more so than on the closing title track. Unlike some singers—and here, the last decade or more of Williams’ music comes to mind—Taylor artfully presents her words as important enough to articulate fully. Singing of understanding, struggles, hope, and honesty, Taylor conveys her regard for her art and her audience.

Having been inopportunely called away just as the album started its initial play a couple weeks ago, I missed the immediately satisfying opening number “Used To Know It All,” a terrific lead track. Like much of the album, this is a guitar-rich song that pulls in the listener, reminding me a little of Marshall Chapman’s most recent music: aware, self-deprecating, and absolutely stellar.

Sticking largely to what used to be sometimes referenced as folk or MOR sounds, Taylor saves her greatest rancour for us and the world we have created. On the country-ish “Halfway To Jesus,” Taylor takes us all to task for a world that is suffering from our influence, preaching “It ain’t like we haven’t been warned, now we’re living through thousand years storms; looking back, where does that leave us?” The answer is, naturally, on a journey to the ever after.

Dulcie Taylor is a new voice, to me. Discover her if you haven’t; she is worth the search.

Advertisements

Vivian Leva- Time Is Everything review   Leave a comment

Vivian Leva

Vivian Leva Time Is Everything Free Dirt Records

“I don’t believe my papa meant for me to be the last of my kind
It seems the keenest pioneers disappear at the worst time…”

“Last Of My Kind,” Paul Burch

When I was but a wee roots writer in (I think) early 2001, I recall seeing an ad in No Depression for an album that—unheard—spoke to me. The album was Paul Burch‘s Last Of My Kind, an audio tribute and companion to Tony Earley‘s (also unknown to me at the time) outstanding novel Jim the Boy. I wrote to the label, or to Burch, requesting a review copy, which in short order made its way north, and I wrote the requisite review. Last Of My Kind became my favourite roots album of the 2000-2009 period; the album mesmerized me, and I have waited for someone to dig into the album and record one of its songs: finally, it has happened.

Not that Burch’s versions weren’t ideal, they are. But as a wise man once said, for a song to live forever, it needs to be sung by others. And now “Last of My Kind” has been, by Virginia’s Vivian Leva as one of ten songs contained on her very strong debut recording, Time Is Everything.

As the daughter of noted old-time roots musicians James Leva and Carol Elizabeth Jones, one might well-believe that Appalachian inspired music would come naturally to Vivian Leva, and one wouldn’t necessarily be incorrect. After all, one imagines, she was surrounded by folk music as a child, and when your mom records with Hazel Dickens, yeah—you’ve got a head start. But that only gets your foot in the door: you have to do the wood-shedding yourself. It is obvious within the eight originals included and across the album’s entirety, that the younger Leva indeed has done the work necessary to develop her talents.

Working with multi-instrumentalist Riley Calgagno (The Onlies), Leva hits the folk world seemingly fully realized. As did Last Of My Kind, Time Is Everything speaks to me.

Similar in spirit if not execution to Dori Freeman first album of a couple years back, Time Is Everything is a most compelling collection of old-time infused modern folk music. Echoes of honky tonk troubadours find their way into Leva’s songs (“Bottom Of The Glass” and maybe my favourite among favourites “Why Don’t You Introduce Me As You Darlin’?”) without overwhelming her controlled vocal delivery. “Every Goodbye” and “Time Is Everything” are more contemporary in execution, bringing to mind the music of Sarah Jarosz and, on “Here I Am,” Sara Watkins.

“Sturdy As The Land” reveals connections to the past in both lyric, melody, and execution: the phrase “wedding bands” has seldom sounded so lonesome, and when she strains to sing, “Where did our love go?” the listener’s heart beats amid the ache of her breath’s rhythm.

Kicking off with some lively fiddle, “No Forever” takes us deeper into old-time and even bluegrass territory, where “Cold Mountains,” a hurtin’ Texas Gladdens number found within the Alan Lomax collections, is extended both lyrically and musically.

Still, the song I can’t stop listening to—as indicated in the opening paragraphs—is “Last Of My Kind.” Old-time mountain music is nothing without emotion, and Leva wrings every bit of regret and anguish Burch placed in this song of significance. Never overwrought, Leva connects with the song in a natural manner, allowing darkly-laden fiddle to work with her voice to communicate funereal reflections.

Time Is Everything. There’s a true life fact. Vivian Leva’s time has arrived. Listen.

Big Bend Killing: The Appalachian Ballad Tradition review   Leave a comment

Big Bend I had to take much of the past month away from writing, but I continued to listen to music. I can’t count the number of hours I spent listening to this amazing two-disc set. It is absolutely splendid, ideal for those of us who appreciate the old songs and the artists who keep them alive. My review has been posted at Country Standard Time. 

Dave Richardson- Carry Me Along review   Leave a comment

Cover+Recreation+Best

Dave Richardson Carry Me Along www.DaveRichardsonFolk.com

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

Tagged with , ,

Kim Beggs- Said Little Sparrow review   1 comment

Beggs

Kim Beggs Said Little Sparrow www.KimBeggs.com

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 http://otisgibbs.com/ 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.

longiridecvr

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.

1042354

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.

b01alzith4dori-freeman

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