CD reviews: Old folk from the Village and beyond
“The Village” is subtitled “A Celebration of the Music of Greenwich Village” – but a more accurate billing might have been “a celebration of Bob Dylan and some ancillary people associated with the New York coffeehouse scene of the early 1960s.” Sure, Dylan was the major presence in the Village, but this multi-artist album is a little unbalanced, kicking off with three Dylan songs in a row, and featuring five songs total from the then newly converted Robert Zimmerman. It’s a little harder to complain about the quality of the music, which deftly maintains folk roots but doesn’t limit it to acoustic guitars, earnest vocals and no-fi production. Woody Creeker John Oates delivers a highlight, mixing soul and folk on a cover of the traditional “He Was a Friend of Mine”; Sixpence None the Richer gives a breathy edge to “Wayfaring Stranger.” Bruce Hornsby introduces some fancy piano work into the proceedings on a version of John Sebastian’s “Darlin’ Be Home Soon.” And yes, Rickie Lee Jones’ version of Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” kicks off the album in good fashion, and you can’t resist the idea of Lucinda Williams covering Bob’s “Positively Fourth Street.”
– produced by Cowboy Jack Clement (Sage Arts)Marley’s Ghost – a bunch of veteran pickers that includes former Aspenite Dan Wheetman – also gives a new spin to old folk on “Ghost Town.” The stylistic spin isn’t as fresh as it is on “The Village” – Marley’s Ghost sticks to acoustic instruments and country-folk traditions – but they dig deeper to unearth material. Tim O’Brien’s tale of the simple life, “Less and Less”; Shawn Camp and Billy Burnette’s story of steadfast romance, “My Love Will Not Change” come to life. There are also takes on Warren Zevon’s wry “She’s Too Good for Me” and Willis Alan Ramsey’s “Goodbye to Old Missoula.” All these songs are worthy of exposure. These guys show an ear for a song. And with “Ghost Town,” a knack for putting songs together into a cohesive album of places seen, girls romanced, and emotions that tugged the heart.
– produced by John Leventhal (Manhattan Records)Rosanne Cash honors her late father Johnny by reinterpreting songs he introduced her to. The selection of songs is solid; Cash’s voice is rich with emotion – and thankfully she doesn’t try to resurrect her father for a from-the-grave duet. Cash does bring in other singers – Bruce Springsteen, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Elvis Costello, Rufus Wainwright – but routinely these voices are well in the background, and don’t overwhelm the intimate feel of “The List.”
– produced by Tim Carbone (GAT Records)The second album by Great American Taxi opens with “One of These Days,” the sort of rollicking, cosmic cowboy sound you would expect. This is, after all, the current project of Leftover Salmon’s Vince Herman. But halfway through, producer and guest fiddler Tim Carbone, from Railroad Earth, shows he can teach old-dog Herman a new trick, and the song opens up with New Orleans-flavored horns and a gospel tint that works well. The sense of a wide-open road continues with the ripping country guitar in “New Millennium Blues,” and the r&b vibe that saturates “Get No Better.” The echoes of Gram Parsons and New Riders of the Purple Sage are wonderfully strong – especially on the title track, which name-checks both those alt-country pioneers – but Herman and keyboardist Chad Staehly are definitely building something new on the old foundation firstname.lastname@example.org
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