Saturday, November 22, 2014

Canadian Spaces – CKCU – Saturday November 22, 2014

CKCU can be heard at 93.1 FM in Ottawa and on the web.

Canadian Spaces on CKCU in Ottawa is Canada’s longest-running folk music radio program. It is heard Saturday mornings from 10:00 am until noon (Eastern time).

It was hosted for more than 33 years by the late Chopper McKinnon and is now hosted by Chris White and a rotating cast of co-hosts.

This week’s show was co-hosted by Mike Regenstreif and Chris White.

Guests: Greg Stone; Kate Weekes & Grant Simpson; Enid & Brant Lucuik; Terry Eagan; and Kenny Butterill.

Stan Rogers- Fogarty’s Cove
Fogarty’s Cove (Borealis)

Lee Murdock- Tiny Fish for Japan
What About the Water (Depot)

Isabel & the Uncommons- I’d Give Away All My Love Songs
Hearts and Arrows (Isabel Fryszberg)

Jesse Winchester- Ghosts

Missy Burgess- My Buddy
Pour Me a Song (Patio)

Bruce Cockburn- Rouler Sa Bosse
Speechless (True North) or Salt, Sun and Time (True North)

Bob Dylan & The Band- Four Strong Winds
The Basement Tapes Complete (Columbia/Legacy)

Ian & Sylvia- This Wheel’s On Fire
The Complete Vanguard Studio Recordings (Vanguard) or Nashville (Vanguard)

Colleen Rennison- Stage Fright
See the Sky About to Rain (Black Hen)

Jon Brooks- Queensville
The Smiling & Beautiful Countryside (Borealis)

Amelia Curran- Time, Time
They Promised You Mercy (Six Shooter)

Leonard Cohen- You Got Me Singing
Popular Problems (Columbia)

Greg Stone- The Legend of the Pom-Pom Kid
Stone Age Man (Greg Stone)

Greg Stone- Lullaby for the Dreamer
Live in the studio

Kate Weekes & Grant Simpson- Frost on Black Fur
Live in the studio

Kate Weekes & Grant Simpson- Sing it to the Hills
Live in the studio

Enid & Brant Lucuik- You Can Close Your Eyes
Live in the Studio

Enid- A Case of You
Live in the Studio

Kenny Butterill- Good Thing That Can't Happen Here
Troubadour Tales (No Bull Songs)

The show is now available for online listening.

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And on Facebook.

--Mike Regenstreif

Friday, November 14, 2014

Tom Russell – Midway to Bayamon; Tonight We Ride; The Western Years

Tom Russell – who I’ve often referred to as the finest singer-songwriter of my generation, the songwriters who emerged 10 to 15 years after Bob Dylan – will release his latest folk opera, The Rose of Roscrae, next year. It’s an album I fully expect to be one of the major folk-rooted or folk-branched releases of 2015. This year’s three releases from Tom are trips into the archives – one of them an essential addition to the Tom Russell discography; the other two fine introductions or reminders of his contributions to contemporary cowboy culture.

Midway to Bayamon
Frontera Records 

The essential release is Midway to Bayamon, a 25-song, 80-minute, collection of rarities recorded between 1982 and 1992. Most of the tracks on Midway are taken from two cassette-only releases that were sold at gigs back in the day, As the Crow Flies from 1985 and Joshua Tree from 1987, both featuring the Tom Russell Band, a crackerjack unit that included such great musicians as guitarist Andrew Hardin and multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplin. There are also a couple of tracks released as 45s back in the day, a Kerrville Folk Festival campfire recording, and some previously unreleased recordings.

While I know many of these songs from other Tom Russell albums, it’s a treat to hear first versions of such great songs like “The Road to Bayamon,” “Navajo Rug” and “Mezcal,” and several songs I’d never heard before including “Common Strangers,” “A Cajun Lullaby,” “The Lady Loves the Gambler,” which could have been a sequel to Mary McCaslin and Jim Ringer’s “Ballad of Weaverville,” “Lights of Oslo,” which I hear as a different chapter in the story that gave us “St. Olav’s Gate,” and “Juarez, A Polka Town,” a cool Tex-Mex instrumental that foreshadows one of the musical directions Tom would go down years later.

Among the other highlights from Midway to Bayamon are a version of “Denver Wind,” a song from Tom’s duo years in the ‘70s with Patricia Hardin that he sings in duet with Nanci Griffith, and “Amelia’s Railroad Flat,” a song of Tom’s that’s best known through the singing of Katy Moffatt.

Tonight We Ride: The Tom Russell Cowboy Anthology
Frontera Records

 Cowboy songs have long been an important facet of Tom’s repertoire and Tonight We Ride: The Tom Russell Cowboy Anthology is a compelling 19-song, 78-minute collection including classics like “Navajo Rug” and “Gallo del Cielo,” both done here as duets with Ian Tyson, “The Sky Above, the Mud Below,” heard here as a duet with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, the hilarious “Tonight We Ride,” “The Banks of the Musselshell,” “Zane Grey” and “Alkali.”

Also included are great versions of several great songs Tom didn’t write including Lillian Bos Ross and Sam Eskin’s “South Coast,” a song that likely inspired Mary McCaslin and Jim Ringer to write the aforementioned “Ballad of Weaverville,” Joe Ely’s “Indian Cowboy,” and the traditional “El Llano Estacado.”

The version of “El Llano Estacado” is a duet with Brian Burns I’d never heard before. There are also previously unreleased versions of several songs including “The Rose of the San Joaquin,” “Rayburn Crane” and “Alberta Blue,” a song inspired by the province of my birth that I don’t recall ever hearing before.

The Western Years
RockBeat Records

The Western Years is a 2-CD, 34-song collection – including several overlaps from Tonight We Ride – that includes both cowboy songs and other songs set in the west.

Most of the recordings come from Tom Russell albums of the past 15 or so years including several from The Man from God Knows Where, Tom’s 1999 folk opera that I still consider to be the best folk album of the past 25 or more years. There are also live versions of several songs including the always exciting “Gallo del Cielo.”

While most of the songs are Tom’s originals, there are a number of definitive covers including Marty Robbins’ “El Paso,” Woody Guthrie’s “East Texas Red,” Allan Fraser’s “Dance Hall Girls,” a classic from the Montreal folk scene of the early-1970s, Jim Ringer’s rewrite of the traditional “Tramps & Hawkers,” Steve Young’s setting of Steven Vincent Benet’s poem “Ballad of William Sycamore,” Mary McCaslin’s “Prairie in the Sky,” and a pair of great Bob Dylan songs: the relatively obscure “Seven Curses,” which feels like a traditional folk song, and the epic “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts,” on which Tom trades verses with Eliza Gilkyson and Joe Ely.

For the uninitiated, either or both of Tonight We Ride and The Western Years will make a great introduction to the cowboy and western sides of Tom’s writing and repertoire. Although not essential to Russell fans who have the original albums these songs are drawn from, they still make for great listening. And the alternate versions of some of the songs make them feel fresh even for folks like me who know these songs backward and forward.

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--Mike Regenstreif

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Dave Ray – Legacy

Red House Records

After Bob Dylan, the most significant musicians to come out of the folk scene around the University of Minnesota, circa 1960, was the trio of Koerner, Ray & Glover – guitarist-singers “Spider” John Koerner and Dave “Snaker” Ray and harmonica player Tony “Little Sun” Glover. Along with such seminal figures as Dave Van Ronk in New York and Eric Von Schmidt in Cambridge, Koerner, Ray & Glover paved the way for all of the blues revivalists who followed in their footsteps.

The tracks on classic Koerner, Ray & Glover albums like Blues, Rags & Hollers and (Lots More) Blues, Rags & Hollers only occasionally featured all three musicians. Most songs had one or another of the trio performing solo or in duos with one of the others and Ray’s cuts highlighted the sets.

Ray went on to a long career working occasionally with Koerner and Glover – I remember meeting and hearing them at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in the 1980s – as well as in duos with Glover, fronting his own bands, and as a solo artist. Ray, who died of lung cancer in 2002 at age 59, kept on playing until the end.

Legacy is an exhaustive 3-CD set that collects 55 recordings – most of them previously unreleased – made over the course of his 40-year career. We hear him mature from a teenaged guitarist trying to imitate Lead Belly to a fully developed master of both rural and urban blues styles.

The recordings on the first CD cover the years from 1962 to 1987. While early tracks like “Alabama Women” and “Fannin Street” sound imitative, we quickly hear him find his own blues voice and begin to offer more fully developed interpretations of songs like Brownie McGhee’s “Lonesome Road,” with Glover offering more than credible Sonny Terry-style harp, and Blind Blake’s “Fighting That Jug.”

The 21 songs on the second CD were recorded between 1988 and 1994 and are highlighted by Jimmy Reed’s “Take Out Some Insurance,” with Ray on electric guitar, Tommy Johnson’s “Big Road,” on which he plays an electric 12-string, and Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues,” on which he plays acoustic 12-string. All three tracks, and many others on the disc, feature some excellent harp work by Glover.

The 18 songs on the third CD date from 1995 to 2002. By this time, Ray was a fully developed blues artist. His versions of such pieces as Tommy McClennan’s “Shake ‘Em On Down,” Joe Callicott’s “Fare Thee Well,” Blind Blake’s “That Will Never Happen No More,” and even a bluesified version of Bill Monroe’s bluegrass classic “With Body and Soul” are a constant delight. And, again, all of those tracks feature great contributions from Glover on the harmonica.

Legacy is a great reminder of an important, if under-appreciated, artist no longer with us. The 32-page booklet includes photos and an excellent essay and song notes by Glover.

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--Mike Regenstreif