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Looking back through these reviews I wish I had listened to other previous If you do decide to use this service do not give your debit or credit details ask to be billed via pay pal as I gave debit details in good faith requesting pal pal but they took payment Read the full review. Inevitably, Peggy dominates the proceedings, but what a presence - imperious sometimes, yes, and definitely in control in the nicest possible way of proceedings, but also much humbled and even awed by the presence and contributions of those so important to her.
The gig was emphatically not an excuse for an exercise in arrogant self-congratulation, but a highly organised, affectionate and sincere thankyou that flows both ways between Peggy and her fellow singers and musicians and indeed her public. There are inevitably some entirely forgivable lapses in intonation, but the charm of the performances and sense of occasion overrides any concerns of a purely technical nature here.
At times Peggy even leaves the stage completely, yielding the spotlight to Norma and Eliza for Lowlands Of Holland , and later on to Mike and Pete individually. As is the whole concert in spite of one or two "you really had to be there" moments that you may find less-conducive-to-home-listening.
Yes, these two discs are definitely to be cherished. This is a truly delightful record. The rest of the songs are traditional in origin; as Peggy explains in her liner notes: Accompaniments are homely and simple, using favourite instruments like autoharp, Appalachian dulcimer, banjo, psaltery, guitar, fiddle and mandolin; musicians include two of her sons by Ewan Calum and Neill and daughter Kitty contributes some backing vocals.
The press release is spot-on - for this is indeed an album that will call you too home. In the face of all of this pressure, Pete persevered, travelling throughout North America and performing "community concerts" in schools and other local venues. The close-on-two-hour concert, reproduced in full here over the course of two CDs, was recorded with extraordinary audio fidelity by the campus radio station WBOR-FM, capturing all the electric communal atmosphere of this gig.
A key component of his success in involving the audience was that each one of the songs performed was prefaced by an introduction that put that song into a social and historical context, and this gambit never fails him throughout the extended set.
The whole set is self-recommending, needless to say, and comes in a sturdy double-gatefold digipack complete with fulsome page booklet and notes in the very best traditions of the SF house. This CD presents a unique snapshot in time, when the convergence of an iconic folksinger, a Clearwater educator, an innovative public school teacher and a group of enthusiastic fourth-graders led to unexpected results.
The kids do a splendid job in mastering some quite complex choruses and verses, and the keen motivation of all parties comes across superbly, while Pete himself is as sprightly as ever although at 90 you expect a certain frailty of vocal projection at times. Just hear the enthusiasm with which the kids sing Take It From Dr. This handsomely-packaged and supremely well-presented set is an expanded re-release of the series of five seminal discs that were previously available as individual CDs.
Pete delivers all of these songs simply and directly, either with his own guitar or banjo accompaniment or in a few cases unaccompanied; but in all instances, you can hear every word, and relish his evident, almost childlike perennial delight in communicating these often timeless songs.
For in so many cases we can name, tunes since have been endlessly recycled for newer compositions, and lyrics have since been combined, cobbled, paraphrased and parodied, often quite mercilessly. And the fact remains that so very many of these songs have since become repertoire standards and worse through their swift incorporation into the skiffle and then pop arenas.
Endlessly fascinating, in fact! Robust as befits the monumental importance of this "collected edition" representing the enduring legacy of the legend that is Pete Seeger, his pioneering work in encapsulating nearly a century of American history and culture in order to "plant the seeds of a better tomorrow in the homes across our land". And now that Smithsonian Folkways discs have attained an efficient and reliable UK distributor in Discovery www. It brings us the quintessential Pete Seeger in equally quintessential concert mode: In doing so, he gives us unique insights into the origins of the songs and thus the byways of human creativity.
As for the enormous breadth of material Pete eagerly encompasses during the show, a partial tracklist must suffice to give you a flavour: There are some quite spine-chillingly atmospheric moments, such as the bizarre point at which Pete seems to turn Greensleeves into a spaghetti-western theme while exhorting the audience to sing along!
Pete engages you directly from the very outset and refuses to let your attention wander for a moment. This issue is nothing less than the ideal celebration of Pete in his prime, the consummate folk entertainer. Pete Seeger is a living legend, and unquestionably one of the greatest living Americans, let alone one of the most important musicians of our time. This CD is an important release, one of historical significance and contemporary celebration, and is complemented by some splendidly joyous photographs.
Pete Seeger and Friends- Seeds: If I Had A Song: The sixteen songs on this album, some his own, some adapted, are unique personal interpretations. This band are Big! Their ideas are big, their presence is big. You have to sit bolt upright and take notice, then be drawn in to the flow and end up embracing them wholeheartedly.
It takes boldness and expertise of a very special kind to get their kind of message put across. And if they need to shout it, to get their message across, then so be it. Plenty of active percussion and other imaginative instrumental arrangements set the seal on the excellent songwriting and ensured the album was a real winner. There are also a couple of examples of what might appear to be slightly mannered in-jokes: We need bands like Seize The Day around to stir the action, to entertain and inspire - which with their undoubted "power to empower" they do so outstandingly well.
Denny Dadmun-Bixby, bass, Chuck Fields, percussion, Reese Wynan, keyboards, are able, assured and perfect for the job at hand. She calls her music Roadhouse Rock, though Nashville Soul might be an equally succinct label for her mix of country twang and muscular rock n roll where echoes of Bonnie Raitt, Maria McKee, Steve Earle and Wanda Jackson hit you between the eyes. Soulful gospel hints are there on Love You Away From Me while Welcome To Paradise is moody bluesy country and Kisses veined with strong pop colours, which, all put together packs a poke and a punch that warrants much wider exposure.
That amazing voice, so effortlessly idiomatic and brilliantly controlled, stops you dead from the opening cover of Tom T.
His songwriting feels as fresh as his singing, although its lazy, laid-back mode on the likes of Dimestore Angel and Fine Hotel still references classic soul and Americana all down the line. The title track, and opener, is a gentle introduction to the world of Sid Selvidge.
Folk blues for the excellent Swannanoa Tunnel will have the hairs on your neck standing to attention and the straightforward folk offering Long Black Veil is a lovely song. The former has one of my pet hates, yodelling, although I can forgive him because of what has gone before and the latter takes us out in the gentle manner that we began with.
Both of these songs remind me, vocally, of Leon Redbone. Take a few listens of this album because Sid Selvidge will grow on you. In its majestic pomp was there a more theatrical band than SAHB? I doubt it, it took showmanship and gave it a rock n roll soundtrack. With Cleminson looking like the latest Batman villain, Zalvation is in your face, in your ears and in your brain. Even so, they wear their virtuosity very lightly, with a modesty that belies their considerable skill as individual musicians.
Having said that, they can relax by doing gentle and slow too, as they prove on Bowland Bridge. And aptly named the project is too, for the end product is rather more like a session than a studio concoction.
This, his thirteenth, was born of two more. When shopping around his last album, Long Player, Late Bloomer, he met with constant rejection. Then there was a cancer scare when he found a lump in his throat. That turned out to benign but the flirtation with mortality led to a bout of introspective, personal songwriting, the results of which found their way into the studio with producer Mitchell Froom. The other good news, is that the concerns of those labels turned out to be welcomingly correct, to the extent of becoming his best seller in some time and even going silver in Europe.
At the time, however, the response was a kick to his confidence that left him wondering what he could possibly do next. Lost In Thought perfectly lives up to the air of reverie in its title, you could even imagine it being sung in some 40s ballroom, a mood that also embraces Life After A Broken Heart and the wistful memories of Autumn Light, the two bonus tracks with words not by Sexsmith but Don Black. The title seems a perfect description of listening to an album which ranks among his very best.
If nothing else, referencing Arthur Lee and Bob Dylan on the press release is certainly a good way to prompt a listen.
However, you then have to make good on the comparisons. A mix of live recordings and overdubs, it opens with Northern lights, a spoken Scottish voice giving way to a swirling wall of noise military beat tune that takes its Gaelic cue from Peatbog Faeries fiddler Adam Sutherland.
My Future With You switches mood immediately to tinkling mid-tempo before the strident guitars strike back up again with The Mountain. Unfortunately, this tend to rather fall apart from this point with a frustrating inconsistency and meandering sense of direction. Wandering interest is revived by the nine minute title track, a simple acoustic strum and dust country, world weary vocal coloured by bottle neck and trumpet building to a big anthemic chorus and brass finale.
If they can make a third album with that sort of heart and focus, then things might not be as shabby as they currently appear. As a songwriter she knows how to hook an emotional nerve. On the appropriately unaccompanied Bare she also takes time out for a self-portrait of the singer on the road. Trailed earlier this year by the urgent flamenco flavoured piano and drums driven single Volcano!
Opening with the evocative mournful title track with its simple repeated piano phrase and swelling Andalucian textured brass, the journey proceeds from the aching anthemic tumbling pop melody of Night Song might Demis Roussos be an influence? They have been tested and not found wanting. With instrumentation that includes French horn, glockenspiel, violin, cello and ebow as well as your regular acoustic guitars and drums, and featuring shared vocals between Lawrence Becko and Jasmin Hollingum, they weave a wonderful, achingly world weary campfire melancholy that variously prompts thought of the Super Furries, Arab Strap, the more sublime moments of Radiohead, Sparklehorse, Godspeed You!
Black Emperor and Tim Buckley. At others it builds to the sort of lysergic fuzzed storm that blows through Treeology, the warm brass enfolded Winter Coats, and the windswept landscapes of the title track. Best of all though is the transcendentally soul-tingling, frost-lined Penguins which rivals the very best of Sigur Ros.
Hewing lyrics from ecological themes and images of nature, matching melodies to the seasons and the weather, and built upon a deep, honest emotional core that reverberates through every song, Shady Bard are a band for the ages, music for eternity.
She seems to be releasing at least one brand new CD virtually every year: The disc ends far too soon! The four contrasted acapella tracks are especially brilliant: Not forgetting her intuitive feel for creative arrangement almost all the instruments and vocal harmonies you hear belong to Anna herself. For, as folks around the north of England scene already know, she makes a hell of an impression in live performance, where she brings to her lyrical and sensitively evocative songs her seriously stunning singing voice and some intensely accomplished musicianship that encompasses distinctive guitar work influenced by both classical Spanish and folk stylings and occasional excursions onto whistle and percussion.
Moving on through the album, Anna glides over land and sea to retell the tale of the flight of golden eagles returning to their native Scotland, then comes to earth and settles down for a sequence of songs with the land the soil as a loose connecting theme.
Two songs powerfully retell old tales: Several of the other songs would have fitted in well on When We Were Young, two in particular feeling complementary to that earlier album, both being reflections from the point of view of a farmer Where Once He Laboured affectionately recalls years spent with his working horse, while No Money For Old Rope tells of being defeated by technology and modern ways.
This may just be a false impression, and certainly when I take a step back and at further remove from the earlier album Over Land scores especially highly and on its own terms is definitely an immensely appealing and rewarding experience - which in the end is how it should be assessed. No Such Thing has him back to what he does best - funking up the blues.
Keyboard player glides across the keys. Forget About Me is slow soul and heartfelt. His deep voice booms this out. Voodoo is the first of two epic tracks to finish off with, this being just under 12 minutes long. This is a funk-fest with an outstanding rhythm section in Josh Milligan on drums and Angelo Nocentelli on bass. Phunkville is from his last album and he goes out with a bang on this grinding blues-based funk. The exuberant Sharon never stands still! The majority of the tracks are masterful in their economy, few taking much longer than three and a half minutes to say what they need to: David Kidman December Clare-born Sharon is an excellent musician, and she has been playing music from an early age, yet only got round to recording her first solo album in Even then, she was always keen on musical collaboration, and the majority of her records since have focussed less on her own individual instrumental skills than on her role as a catalyst for the performances of other musicians.
This compilation, which spans the years to , seems to be making this point, and at least is capably reflecting that role, even if in the end it produces a frustratingly uneven musical experience.
The two medleys of rocked-up reels featuring Renegade are predictably exciting, typical of the crowd-pleasing "big session" approach; the famous "dance remix" of The Bag Of Cats has a certain incongruous charm heard once!
The disc also contains two vocal numbers Jim does the honours here: A surprise hit single in the making perhaps. However, although this is billed as a solo record it sounds much more like a band effort. In fact, this album is more memorable for the work of veteran blues vocalist and harp man Keith Dunn, who has worked with the likes of Joe Louis Walker, Jimmie Vaughan and brother Stevie Ray, and here appears on no less than seven tracks.
Not sure about the lead guitarist, though Not only does seventeen-year-old Amanda sound more mature than her years, but her fiddle playing is pretty special too. Sligtly reminiscent of Gerry Rafferty, the title track is one of those tasteful, jazz tinged numbers with brushed drums and moody guitars that tend to find favour on late night mellow music radio stations.
It combines traditional music, played by traditional musicians, with the lusher classical sounds of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. That sounds like a recipe for a diverse and unsatisfying cobbling-together of big names just to cash in on a TV success, but this issue is an honourable exception to that rule. Capercaillie members Donald and Charlie have here composed a score which is cinematically intimate yet panoramic and finely evocative, in which the disparate elements are extremely well-integrated, although there are inevitably moments where a specific style predominates.
Amazingly they actually live up to the hype, albeit translating the quintessential Englishness of the comparisons into quintessential heartlands America. What crosses the bridge intact is the melancholic alienation of souls lost, lonely and adrift, breathed into life with brushed arrangements of guitars, keyboards, vibraphone and skeletal bluegrass banjo.
Indeed, the spooked tick tock opening A Hush is actually narrated from beyond the grave. They certainly know how to write an evocative lyric, for example on the sparse sounding back porch bluegrass gothic Whipping Boy where they sing "just to see him laugh I would have washed in the blood of an innocent man" or in the scenes sketched in the Eltonish piano ballad The World In where, talking to his grandfather and mother, Meiburg laments everything lost in the past two decades.
As seven minutes of The Set Table shows, they can go on a bit, but for the most part this is a Shear delight. A truly lovely record and one for the year end best of lists. In a business of sycophants where few people are prepared to give you an honest opinion, talent self-delusion tends to be the rule when it comes to actors and actresses turning their hand to music.
There have, of course, been honourable exceptions. And to that list you can now add Zooey Deschanel. She also contributed three numbers, including a fine version of Ooh Child, to the Bridge To Terabithia soundtrack. Apparently she mentioned she wrote a few things herself, played him some samples and he suggested they make a record together.
Their debut album lives up to its name like the blowing-in of a fresh breeze, nay a whirlwind of invention, with its adventurous and well-proportioned blend of Scottish folk, Gaelic song and bluegrass. The Shee depart from any superficial comparison with the Poozies by virtue of their use of bluegrass-inflected mandolin in place of guitar, a feature which proves key to both their overall and incidental musical stylings. The Shee present a dynamic total sound picture, within which each individual line or colour, though tightly controlled in its execution, also displays an easy facility for interchange of melody and textured harmony roles, while their arrangements display a strong sense of co-operative approach.
Naturally, individual band members also get the chance to shine, and their handling of those quite specific instrumental colours is innovative and often quite startling, for instance in the array of effects Rachel conjures from her electric harp you might almost mistake its dark twang for a bass guitar at times. A Different Season is a very impressive debut indeed: I might say, one of shee-er brilliance!
This Bristol-based five-piece outfit made their debut in style close on five years ago with the acclaimed CD Uncle Lung, which proudly set out their proverbial stall on the big wide world-folk marketplace.
The album title and the associated clever artwork gives a good flavour of both the reckless delight and sense of fun, and at the same time the careful attention to detail, that the enclosed music contains.
Each selection is expertly managed, and clearly tailored to the musical skills of the band members. Yet again the Glasgow based label comes up trumps by introducing a hitherto unknown US country act into the UK. They lay out their mission statement from the off, opening up with a worksong styled cover of the trad Oh Death , harmony a cappela save for the spare percussion and occasional sound of clanging pipe, before moving on to the self-penned bluegrass of the title track.
Par for the roots course, they give good tragedy. Looks like the start of another aural love affair for roots country devotees. Just a trivia note: Gains was the second solo album from the former Dream City Film Club frontman following up Sweet Blue Gene the title track making a belated debut as the opening number here with another helping of romantic, cinematic soul baring melancholy dripping from his tenderly bruised aching voice.
US singer-songwriter Duncan became a household name in in the States with his debut single Barely Breathing, which stayed in the charts for almost a year and helped land him a grammy nomination for his first album release later that year. The whole is in fact an inordinately fine sum of inordinately fine constituent parts, with everything so absolutely right and in its place yet sounding stirringly fresh each time you play the record.
Here we have three performers - all song-collectors par excellence - who are totally at one with their material, having thoroughly absorbed and assimilated their traditional sources both songs and singers ; they know the virtue of simple accompaniment as opposed to unduly exotic tunings and distracting instrumental trickery , and they know how to tell their stories in song; their deep enjoyment in communicating those stories is tangible and strong.
And the booklet notes are exemplary in their clarity and informativeness. The incredible bond that Irishman Denny and "Goolishman" Chris formed when they met on the 90s Hull session scene has never waned, and together they make an entirely unmistakable sound, a blend and delivery that simply could not be achieved by any other musicians on the folk circuit.
Chris and Denny are definitely at the top of their game nowadays - and I thought that only a few years ago! So go eat your heart out Harry Potter - this is high-grade wizardry, the real deal. Lucy Wan is a disc shot through with blistering passion and totally brilliant musicianship, all its base elements melded together with serious alchemy.
Her songs seem to alternate between deadly serious, insightful pieces of soul-searching and wry, pointed, sly fun ones, with the interpolation of an occasional story. Even after living with this her latest? The carefree Broadway-cabaret-jazz idiom of the overtly satirical tracks dealing with "Issues" tends to grate after a couple of plays, whereas the deeper import of story-parables such as Dorothy And Eve termed a well-imagined conversation between some role models and ostensibly simpler tribute-songs like the touching Love Is Thicker Than Water proves somewhat more lasting.
The melodic lusciousness of the more lyrical pieces, such as the title track, recalls Dar Williams at her most memorable.
It was made over 2 years ago, but has all the timeless appeal of the best of Irish traditional music. Leitrim-born Dave is a fine flute player who gathered together an assortment of his musician friends to partake of a session in that metaphorical guest-house-cum-caravan somewhere in the Irish countryside.
After all this positive commentary, however, I feel obliged to voice my one reservation regarding the disc: Oldham-based Jan and Pete have a long history of singing in and around Manchester, initially as individuals and latterly both as a duo and in various groups.
As has been the case and necessity with many folk-performers, there was then a post-marital hiatus career and family commitments , following which around three years ago they returned to the scene as a duo performing a wide range of folk songs, Jan taking the singing role with Pete elegantly and sensitively accompanying on guitar and supplying occasional vocal harmonies. The choice of songs is both attractive and apt, representing the better class of folk-club fare and - crucially - songs which suit their performing style and general, thoughtful approach.
Jan and Pete have obviously taken time out to seek and cover the work of some less-heralded but worthy writers too: The CD booklet has just the right amount of necessary information, and the overall presentation by which I mean all elements of package and design as well as the welcomingly clean recording is admirably uncluttered.
David Kidman February Nice musical arrangements with saxophone, trumpet, flute, keyboards and mandolin as well as the above mentioned harmonica and a little funk, all add up to a quality blend of radio friendly songs. A Sweet Baby James lullaby? I played the album to a stressed-out friend who fell asleep and woke feeling refreshed and restored!
Peace and harmony, brother! With a core band of Mavericks guitarist Eddie Perez, engineer John Lousteau on drums , one time Funky Kings member and session legend Greg Leisz on pedal steel and Derek Silverman playing and arranging the keyboard parts, it drips with catchy, pop friendly hooks-laden melodies, soulful rhythms and chugging countrified riffs that hark back to the alt-country of the 80s. These songs here receive a definitive recorded performance, in which Richard is backed by a wealth of talented musicians including Sara Milonovich violin, viola , John Putnam pedal steel , Seth Glier Hammond organ , Viktor Krauss acoustic bass and Ben Wittman percussion ; and as a bonus, Lucy Kaplansky sings harmony vocals on two songs too.
Richard himself is also ringing the changes a bit here by using bouzouki to add an extra drive to several of the songs. South Of Delia sees Richard delving into the rich roots heritage of that sprawling American borderland between country and folk, while also offering genuinely fresh perspectives on a few more overly well-travelled songs along the way.
Another masterstroke comes with Richard bringing out the latent melancholy in the blues classic Sitting On Top Of The World , his mournfully spare delivery and setting really penetrating to the heart of what in lesser hands so easily becomes a throwaway number.
Whatever the landscape, though, Richard places you right there - and convinces. No exaggeration, this supremely artful set of "twelve songs that belong together" is interpretive magic of the very highest order. Nashville-based West Texas gal Amanda started out as a fiddle player when she graced the ranks of the Thrift Store Cowboys, but as a singer-songwriter she really only started to make waves on the roots music scene after her collaboration with Rod Picott, but it was her West Cross Timbers album a year later that pushed her right into the limelight of Americana front-runners.
Carrying Lightning continues much in the same vein, but if anything has an even more potent appeal. Co-produced by Picott and David Henry, the album has an elusive kind of sound-world, characterised by gently shifting, often heavily twangsome alt-country-style textures, with due prominence given to guitars, steel and fiddle but then not exactly in a standard Nashville kind of setting. Her emotional gamut ranges as widely as her theme, with the almost matter-of-fact resignation of When You Need A Train It Never Comes balancing the quiversome aching longing of Love Be A Bird, the almost-too-good-to-trust contentment depicted in Sloe Gin countermanding the runaway motivations of the mysterious Ghostbird, the lustfully seductive desires of Shake The Walls contrasting with the more wistful, uke-backed fantasy of Lovesick I Remain.
At her finest, Amanda comes close to Emmylou in effect. Amanda will be touring the UK and Ireland from mid-April. It is entirely fitting and undoubtedly not coincidental that she begins the album with Upon Hearing Violins because not only is this West Texas musician a beautifully precise singer she is a skilled and passionate fiddle player as well.
West Coast Timbers is built on the bedrock of traditional American folk music, there are delicate shades of country, bluegrass and slightly ironically in the case of Upon hearing Violins a subtle version of country rock to add texture.
She possesses that rare ability to bring lyrics to vibrant life. You can almost touch and see the heartbreak within Put Me To Bed, for a song so full of sadness and despair it fairly crackles and fizzes with raw emotion. There is also an engaging, natural unaffected quality to both Amada Shires and her music that allows the listener to believe in her.
While others would have searched a song like Unwanted Things for a theatrical effect, Amanda Shires finds the simple truth that is at its core. The songs have a depth that only the personal can bring, this is Amanda Shires laying herself bare. Throughout West Coast Timbers Amanda Shires shows the confidence and maturity to allow a song like Days In Blankets to speak for itself, it and the whole album has the lightness of touch that comes from a true musician, set against the barest of musical canvasses Amanda Shires and West Coast Timbers flourish.
Someday sounds like a textbook slice of torch pop hijacked by scuffed rhythm shuffle and New Orleans brass section, The Fat Lady of Limbourg takes a European cabaret sway and peppers it with a machine press rhythm and bleeps and bubbles of steam while Little Black Mess deliberately sets the vocals and backing to different tempos. On paper that may make it sound a little disconcerting, but it all flows with a smooth, lazy ease, taking to the dance floor for a Latin sway mixed with a reggae lurch with 2 Far Parsley at her most little girl kittenish , I Close My Eyes coming over all 40s New York noir with its twangy guitar and sashaying vocals and both Mexican Boyfriend and the dreamy pop that is It All Got Black providing perfect soundtracks for those impossibly perfect sunny afternoons by the river.
Yes, that soft-toned yet wonderfully resonant beast whose distinctive timbre formed such a memorable constituent in the sound of the Poozies and Sileas both of which included Mary among their ranks, of course. Unlike the Sileas albums, though, Sugarcane presents a sequence of songs as opposed to instrumentals , a selection that can only be described as genuinely and inspirationally eclectic.
A handful of Gaelic songs shame no texts or translations! Vocals are mellow-toned, yet with precision and bite convey a daring approach to harmonies, unafraid of exploring dissonances and where the natural, bold and fearless expression of them might lead. Like yer actual sugarcane, the sound is sweet yet at the same time quite basic and just a little raw, happily unrefined by such things as saccharine keyboards. Not having been to New Mexico, let alone Albuquerque, home of three-piece Shine Cherries, I can only give an educated guess as to what it looks like.
My image is of a hot, arid, rugged and awesome place, the kind of country that mother nature has taken thousands of years to carve. And rather like the effect of the wind and rain, slowly but inevitably a little more of the true depth and shadows are revealed as the EP moves on. This is dark, intense, angular rock and roll, there is no gentle easy flow as each track moves in a series of inky black waves.
Over it all like a harbinger of doom hangs the superb voice of Michelle Collins. On Fight or Flight she brings a natural, unknowing sensuousness to the song. So stately and grand is the progress of tracks like Mosquito that guitar drums and voice appear, at first glance to be completely unrelated but, as they join together, they create an atmosphere that sends a chill up your spine.
Its as if Shinazzi is revealing a series of uncomfortable moments in his life. Instead of polishing and crafting the tracks, he has left them at their most natural best. Instead of searching for that elegant, well turned phrase Shinazzi tells it as he feels it and that only serves to strengthen the bond between artist and audience.
The simple but unshakable songwriting foundations on which Shinazzi has built Then I Held My Breath allow him to be touchingly frank, Girls, for one, only works because it is so open. Any hint of over production would make it self indulgent. To then follow it with the naive love song My Very Own Mary-Ellen gives a perfect example of the light and shade contained in the album.
The musical style of the first of the two CDs is more rock than roots and we can probably attribute this to the songwriting of one Thomas Erb, not a member of the band. A couple of covers might have eased us in and given us a reference point or two. Typical, you wait ages for a new Michelle Shocked album and then three come along at once. The middle one of the pack, which she refers as Short Sharp Shocked grown up, stems primarily from her recent divorce, ranging stylistically between blues Used Car Lot , rock Fools Like Us , punk Hi Skool , Tex Mex country the superb Evacuation Route and jangling folk pop a Dylanish talk-sing How You Play The Game and pretty much steering clear of any self-pity as she snaps out the Waitsian greasy blues Hardly Gonna Miss Him and lounges through the newly alone bittersweetness of Early Morning Saturday.
Billing herself as la Senora, Mexican Standoff subdivides the concept further as she straddled her own heritage with a set that moves from the Mexican flavours of the first five numbers produced by Steve Berlin from Los Lobos and partly sun in Spanish to the slide guitar American blues of the second five.
Interestingly, Wanted Man offers a new set of spoken lyrics and Tex Mex colours while using the melody line of the old Johnny Cash nugget. The cast list on the re-released Arkansas Traveler is impressive enough. But even such luminaries are cast in the shadows of Michelle Shocked and her music.
Arkansas Traveler is the third in a trilogy released between and and was Grammy nominated first time round and deserves to be again. Curiously the opening track, 33 RPM Soul is perhaps the thinnest on the album a fact made even more curious because Shocked is joined on it by the great Pop Staples. From this point on the album is a sheer delight.
But I have definitely a new-found respect for the Hothouse Flowers. Their contribution to the rumbustious, Guinness-flavoured Over The Waterfall is stunning but, as always, at the heart of it all is Michelle Shocked. Everything about Arkansas Traveler screams spirit. Arkansas Traveler may be a hodge-podge of styles. The title track is surely just Jimmy Driftwood fooling around in the studio, with Michelle Shocked joining in but from that spontaneity springs magic.
The seven bonus tracks too, add more to the album than just seven more songs. Michelle Shocked has a studio scheduled for release in , until then Arkansas Traveler will do very nicely. And not just Southern funk.
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